Tuesday, May 26, 2020

The Book Thief By- Markus Zusak

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The Plot:

Set in Nazi Germany, during the World War II, The Book Thief is a classic Historical fiction, that follows the journey of Liesel Meminger. The book is narrated by Death, taking us through the horrors of the world war and the lives of those affected by it. The book thief, Liesel finds solace in the books that she steals, and later goes on to write her own book which leaves behind in the rubble of destruction and death.   

The story:

The story begins with death – the death of Liesel’s little brother – in a train carriage, as she travels with their mother. As they bury her brother, she steals her first book – The Grave Digger’s Handbook, that she finds on the snow.

Unable to take care of her children, Liesel’s mother leaves her daughter at the footsteps of foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann, in the fictional town of Molching in Munich. The girl is traumatised, yet she finds love in the warmth of Hans’ abundant care and Rosa’s fiery temper. Hans helps her read her first stolen book. The book becomes sacred to her as it is the last thing that connects her to her mother and brother. Every book she steals has some connection to her life.  

She also befriends Rudy, her neighbour, who falls in love with her. Their adventures together and how they stick to one another is emotional, yet fun-filled.

Another interesting part of the story is when Hans takes in a Jewish fist-fighter, Max, whose father happens to be Hans’ friend during the war. Giving refuge to a Jew might have been the biggest risk ever, yet Hans shelters him and hides him from the Nazis. Max and his sketchbooks help Liesel develop as a writer.           

What I liked:

The Book Thief is close to 600 pages, that is how voluminous the book is! Yet there’s never a dull moment in the book. It is not only Liesel, who manages to steal your heart along with the books she steals but every other character manages to wind themselves into your heart too! Whether it is Hans, reading a book to put the scared Liesel to sleep or Rosa, who calls Liesel ‘Saumensch’ – a pig – whenever she’s annoyed and yet it becomes a term of endearment for the little girl, whether it is Rudy who never gives up on trying to get a kiss out of Liesel or Max, who shares an affinity of words with Liesel - we never get enough of these characters!

The narration by Death is gripping, and the book itself is a treasure! As you move along the book, you contemplate the fragility of human life, on the futility of wars, on compassion, on stolen pleasures, and death. The book is not a grim or depressing read though, the narration and characters are lively and make you smile.  

There are delightful expressions like – “The sun – looks like a pat of softened butter – melting into a warm, creamy mashed potato cloud – in the middle of a bottomless powder blue bowl”.

Sample another, when Rudy introduces himself, “Have you ever seen a lemon? That’s what my hair looks like.”  

Or Death’s account of what remains after a war, “So many humans. So many colours. They keep triggering inside me. They harass my memory. I see them tall in their heaps, all mounted on top of each other.

All the little details that the author has put in, the melodrama, the delightful words, and phrases, the mellifluous language, all make it a reader’s delight. In fact, if you are a Grammar Nazi - pardon the unsavoury coincidence – you would find the book peppered with adjectives and sprinkled with adverbs, and phrases that paint a virtual rainbow of words on your page!  

Final words:

There are two ways people enjoy food – the fast food lovers and the ones who like an elaborate dining experience. If you are the former, this book is definitely not for you. But if you are the kind that would take time to take in the flavours, and relish every single morsel at your own leisurely pace, then, this book is a must-read.

It made me cry, it did! And rarely does a book do that to me. I think you get it, right?

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