Random musings of a wandering soul

Review – The Book Thief

Sometimes you hear about a book through a friend or a review and buy it, other times you like the author and pick up a book of theirs, yet other times you randomly find it on the library shelf. Then there are times where I like to believe the book finds you. This is the second time that has happened. The first book was ‘Theo’s Odyssey’, and now this. I had no intention of buying a book as I walked into the office food court, got a cup of tea, and was aimlessly wandering around and as usual, the feet went in automatically into the book shop, the fingers started caressing the shelves filled with books of all kinds and suddenly the eyes caught a catchy title – ‘The Book Thief’. Turned around and here is what I found

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

Do I need even say I was hooked? Was a bit unsure after I read the prologue, find it a little tedious, maybe it was the mood I was in. A few pages later, I was hooked.

The story is narrated by an unusual character – Death. It starts with Liesel traveling with her mother and little brother to a foster home. The narrator gets its first victim during the journey, the little boy. You can almost sense Death, contrary to what you would think, it seems to have a soul.The helplessness and resigned sense of what needs to be done has to be done is present throughout the book. Liesel steals her first book at the grave yard where they go to bury her brother – “The Gravedigger’s Handbook”. The titles of the books that she steals later is as interesting, each relevant to the stage she is in.

This is the tale of Liesel, her friend Rudy, her foster parents – the bear like Hans Hubermann and his wife Rosa, “who looked like a small wardrobe with a coat thrown over it” and her life on Himmel Street through some of the most turbulent times in Germany and the world over.

I do not want to write much about the story here, would rather leave it to you to savour it. What I would like to mention though is the absolutely beautiful manner in which the characters are etched, it is as if you know them as close as someone living next door. The narration is quite interesting, I loved the little asides that are spread throughout the book like these…

It travelled and wondered,
but it disclosed no answers.
Not Yet.

He didn’t go into battle that day.

‘I guess I’m better at leaving
things behind than stealing them’

This is a stroy of fairly ordinary people doing some extraordinary things in the strangest of times. You could see it as a dark story with a sad ending or one that shows rays of hope in the darkest of places. It repeatedly reminds you that you can find happiness in the seemingly most irrelevant things in life like

“One feather, two newspapers. A lolly wrapper. A cloud.”

It also shows another side of the Nazi Germany that you seldom hear about. This is a story that could have easily turned into the macabre, instead it shows the positive side of life without being preachy. The best part is, it neither describes in detail about the atrocities of Nazis nor does it narrate the helplessness of Jews, though the overwhelming presence of both can be felt throughout in the background. Small acts of defiance, the humane hearts of people who are rough on the outside – all these slowly seep into you without you even realizing it. The power of the written word , how a book and a little girl’s voice who reads it out changes the lives of some of her close ones and not so close ones is very subtly woven into the narrative

And I got the answer to a question that I’ve been searching for long πŸ™‚

“How do you give someone a piece of sky?
Lightly, he tapped her skull with his knuckles. “Memorise it. Then write it down for him.”

Only an out and out lover of books could have written this one.

Verdict – Must Read

Comments on: "Review – The Book Thief" (21)

  1. Interesting. I will say.

  2. I admit to picking this book up from the library but not making much headway with it and returning it unread. But after this review I will read it again. One line which intrigues me is – This is a story of fairly ordinary people doing some extraordinary things in the strangest of times. Gives me a feeling of optimism, forging ahead inspite of….. Nice review:)

  3. You need to get through at least a quarter of the book before it starts growing on you. What I liked is the thread of optimism and the small ,yet big acts of defiance against things that they don’t believe in. The best part is building of characters, each one is so well built and strong, you can almost imgaine that you are living on Himmel Street, at least that’s what I felt πŸ™‚

  4. Quite out of the ordinary…noting it down for future buy !!! πŸ™‚

  5. I completely agree with you. It is a MUST read. Since you love ‘The book Thief’ I will suggest you another book –Naked Among Wolves by Bruno Apitz (1978). It is another excellent book. If you have not read it then, do read it. I read it long time back, so I don’t know if the book is still available. BTW the review is great as usual. Another book that I would suggest to you, which I read quite recently, is The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes.

  6. I just have to read this. I have a thing for stories set in Germany in the thirties/forties. I find fascinating the insight they provide into the tenacity of human spirit.

  7. bigalittleamom said:

    It sounds wonderful! Will definitely search for it!
    Thank you very much for your kind words at my blog!

  8. This is a book I would certainly recommend to anyone who wants to realize our shared humanity. I’m glad you enjoyed it – fab review! It makes me want to read it all over again – and I will someday soon too!

  9. And you’ve written a beautiful review:-))…..I normally wdn’t at all consider reading a book narrated by death πŸ™‚

  10. Your review is beautiful enough to make any reader go searching for it. It certainly sounds interesting.

  11. Thank for sharing…loved the last excerpt from the book….

  12. […] had reviewed this, and ever since, I had been waiting to get hold of it. Bindu is one of those close friends of mine, […]

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