Friday, March 14, 2014

The Book Thief: Book Review

This book, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, does surprise me a little. First I thought it was another fiction, then I thought it was some story about a girl about her life. But when the story starts, I was brought into the perspective of the narrator. By that time, I was still curious who was this narrator and wonder why was he/she there. And turned out the narrator was Death himself. And he talked of historical events and human's idiocy from his point of view, which provoked quite a few wisdom itself.

But this is a fiction after all, he can't go on and on about philosophy and life advice. His narrative focused, slowly, on a girl, Liesel. She was fleeing, with her mother and soon-to-be-dead brother. She was sent to stay with another foster parents because she might be in danger because it was implied later in the book that her father was a communist. Her foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann. Hans was a caring, warm character while Rosa was a strict mama. However, things went by and showed the three of them make a warm family. Liesel, for the first time, learn to read - which was why this book was titled. She was first caught with her stealing the gravedigger's handbook.

Their life was caught in turbulence when the Nazi was rising and the son of a Jew, whom saved Hans in the WWI, Max Vandenburg, came visiting hoping to get a place of hiding. They need to make sure Max was well-hidden while continuing with the deteriorating life style. Liesel made friends with the neighbours, particularly the lemon-haired boy, Rudy Steiner.

Liesel continued her obsession with book, including reading from the Mayor's collection, reading with Max and more. As the story progressed, Liesel developed skill in reading. Just as how Hans used to comfort the people during bombing with his accordion, Liesel read for them in the bomb shelter to lift them off tensed anxiety. Life went grey as the war intensified. People were sent to war, family broken, betrayals at hindsight... And the story went to an ending when one night, Himmel Street was bombed. Liesel was reading at their shallow basement. Everyone died, at least it seemed. Liesel granted Rudy a kiss before he died and shocked with her foster parents' loss.

The story showed later that Max was still alive and Liesel grew up to be book-lover, married and moved to Australia...

As much as the story sounds like an ordinary fiction, I liked the way it was narrated.

Quotes from book:

A small but noteworthy note. I've seen so many young men over the years who think they're running at other young men. They are not. They are running at me.
I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race - that rarely do I even simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant...I am haunted by humans.
So much good, so much evil. Just add water.
I want words at my funeral. But I guess that means you need life in your life.
I guess humans like to watch a little destruction. Sand castles, houses of cards, that's where they begin. Their great skills is their capacity to escalate.
So many humans. So many colors.
Even enemies were an inch away from friendship.
Imagine smiling after a slap in the face. Then think of doing it twenty-four hours a day.
Is there cowardice in the acknowledgment of fear? Is there cowardice in being glad that you lived?
Words can be used in a way that's like a child playing in a sandpit, rearranging things, swapping them around. They're the best moments in a day of writing - when an image appears that you didn't know would be there when you started work in the morning.
One opportunity leads directly to another, just as risk leads to more risk, life to more life, and death to more death.

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