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Monday, 16 November 2015

The Book Thief

Book Title: The Book Thief

Author: Markus Zusak 

Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief is nothing short of a masterpiece. The book runs in a fluid narrative – and you are left wondering why the book ended – even if it runs to a massive four hundred odd pages. Telling the story from the perspective of Death – whose own description we never see or hear, the Book Thief is the narrative of the life story of a young girl, Liesel.

Liesel Meminger loses her brother, and her mother cannot afford to take care of her. She moves into the house of Hans Hubermann and Rosa Hubermann, whose son, it appears, is out at the warfront.
Even if the narrator is a grim element himself, his narration is fluid, and the characterisation of death as a person is touching, charming and simply beautiful. The philosophical thoughts are not overtly suggestive of a holier-than-thou intellectual perspective, but really walk the mile with you, as you articulate the pains of your own mind.

The story is set in Nazi Germany, around the beginnings of World War II. On the way to her new home, Liesel sees her younger brother die and be buried, at which time she steals her first book – The Gravedigger’s Handbook. When she arrives at her new home, she is haunted by nightmares, and the gentle Hans Hubermann reads her to sleep.  With time, Liesel’s new home becomes home to a young Jewish lad, who is escaping the clutches of the ruthless Nazi regime. Liesel befriends her neighbour, Rudy Steiner, who loved the idea of being Jesse Owens – so much so that he painted himself with grease and ran miles, barefoot.

The Book Thief has powerful undercurrents. The trauma of loss. The joy of finding love. The greater joy of returning love. The power of kindness. The strength in words. The subtleties and complexities of being a human. The perception of death. The need to overcome personal conflicts in the face of greater social and political conflicts. The rendition of Germany in the Second World War without indulging in mainstream reiterations. The Book Thief wakes you up to a contemporary reality with a story from the past. The lingering melancholy is overpowering, as is the strength and truth in every sentence.

Markus Zusak has weighed every word.