The Book Thief
1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier.
Liesel, a nine-year-old girl, is living with a foster family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This is her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs begin to fall.
SOME IMPORTANT INFORMATION - THIS NOVEL IS NARRATED BY DEATH
It's a small story, about:
some fanatical Germans
a Jewish fist fighter
and quite a lot of thievery.
ANOTHER THING YOU SHOULD KNOW - DEATH WILL VISIT THE BOOK THIEF THREE TIMES
Liesel, Death and The Power of Words
I read this book out of curiosity, since I heard about it from my students. After reading it myself, I made up my mind to work on both book and its movie adaptation with one of my classes this year and added both to a section of my syllabus, which consists of a series of readings dedicated to the theme The Power of Words.
Liesel is just a young girl when she becomes a book thief and she can’t even read. She realizes how powerless she is without words so, little by little, to her books become treasurable objects and she’s ready to risk everything to steal them away , read them and collect them. Liesel realizes words can give her power: the power to connect, to understand, to relate, to survive. The power to escape, as well as to face, reality and go on living.
Her story is told us by Death, who finds and reads the book Liesel was writing – because, of course, someone so fascinated by words could but become a writer, couldn’t she? - during the bombing of her little German town and which she had titled The Book Thief. Death is an unexpectedly quite reliable narrator and he is surprisingly fascinated by humans. His vision of them is quite romantic, even lyrical, and at the same time painful and tragic. How can human beings be capable of such goodness and of such cruelty? “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”. He says that he carries certain stories with him, stories that convince him of the worth of human existence against all odds. The book thief's story is one of those, that’s why he wants to share it.
|The book thief is also a 2013 movie|
Liesel and the family who welcomes her when her mother is forced to leave her, their friends and their neighbours, are very good people. Even the mayor’s wife, representing the upper classes and Hitler’s supporters, has a heart and comes to care for little Liesel and to support her love for books and reading. So how is it possible that Death has so much work in those years? He ironically comments: “It kills me sometimes, how people die.” And also, “I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn't already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race - that rarely do I ever 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.”
Markus Zusak succeeds in writing a brilliant, original tale about pain, war and death with the final result of gifting his readers with a really hopeful, lyrical tale about humanity.