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Friday, January 3, 2014

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak: Review




Since I am obsessed with reading book, of course there are tons of books I come across that make a special impact on me, and earn a special place in my heart forever. And because I am obsessed with books, I am also always on the lookout for some amazing book recommendations.

One book that I recently picked up based on a recommendation was The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. And it is also the first book I finished reading in the year 2014.

The first thing I will say about this book is that it will leave a big impact on you. The book is categorised under the young-adult novel section and is a big book. It is nearly 600 pages long and is filled with layers and layers of thoughts, understanding, feelings and story-telling genius that will come undone depending at what age you are reading it. So if you are reading it in your late teens you may peel off some layers, while you will read through some more layers when you read it as a young adult or around your mid-20s. If you read it even later, as I did, you will really really enjoy the book in more dimensions than you could before. There is just so much to take in that I can’t say it’s fair to categorise this as a young adult novel. The ‘tag’ may put off some more mature readers, thinking it to be kiddish, but that is truly not so!



As for the author Markus Zusak, I am going to make it a point to read all his other works.......I simply cannot miss out on those.....

 (*above: from the book)

The story is narrated by Death and revolves around life in Germany during Hitler’s rule, or more infamously, during the Holocaust era, the Nazi Germany. It looks at life from all perspectives, from the eyes of children who are caught in this battle of power and shame, from the eyes of men and women who fail to understand how a country could allow such inhumanity, but have to bow down to it nonetheless, if just to keep their families safe, from the eyes of those who entirely believe in the Fuhrer’s cause, and from the eyes of those who are the hunted in the Nazi land.

The story begins when our main character, Liesel Meminger, is 9 years old. The story follows Liesel during the years 1939 till about 1943 and is set in the fictional town of Molching, near Munich in Germany.
The story begins when Death picks up Liesel’s little 6-year old brother. That is the time Death first sees Liesel, though he tells us that he will see her again. Liesel is traumatised with the death of her brother and is separated from her mother. She is handed over to foster parents and goes to their home at 33 Himmel Street (Himmel meaning Heaven). Her foster parents are Hans and Rosa. Hubbermann. At first, she is traumatised, confused, scared and doesn’t want to do anything or talk to anyone. But slowly, she finds a friend in Hans Hubbermann and the girl begins to come out of her shell. While she is not a good student in the beginning, unable to read properly, her friendship with her foster father soon sees her gulping down words and understanding and entering the magical world of reading. She also finds a friend in Rudy Steiner, the boy who lives next door.

Liesel’s life begins to show some normalcy as she starts spending the day by accompanying her mother for her daily laundry woman routine, and spends the night reading with her father. While on these trips with her mother, she slowly sees the change that starts coming up around her in Nazi Germany, with yellow stars on shop windows and Jew establishments closing up.

In another place, a Jew named Max is hiding, trying to save his life, and he lands at 33 Himmel Street. Hans and Rosa Hubbermann shelter him in their basement, and this is the home that Max will have now, away from the outside world, hidden below the earth, never seeing the blue sky, the bright sun or another fellow human other than the Hubbermanns and Liesel again.

As Liesel and Rudy turn 10, they are required to join the Band of German Girls and Hitler Youth respectively. And that is when they truly start understanding what is going on in their country, to some extent, and Liesel too realises that what happened to her parents, to her brother and to herself is because of this person called Hitler.

(*above: from the book

As you read the story, you realise the beauty of life, the vastness of heart, the immense power of hope and goodness and how our greed for power can bring catastrophic results, wiping out all that is good and important. While I was reading the book, there were times I was ashamed of being a human being at all. All of us, at some time or other, have either done something wrong, or quietly seen wrong being done, yet not protested. That is precisely the time when our worst shame happens. And the book shows you what it is to rise out above that shame, and what it feels to hold the hand of a fellow human being in support.

(*above: from the book)

I cannot do justice to this book in a review. It is one of those few books that left me speechless. I am simply stunned by the author, by the way he has written this book, full of prose and beauty and heart wrenching sadness. It is a tale of hope, love, loss, fear, happiness, power, guilt, shame, strength and so so much more. It is a story about family, about being what you are and not what you look like, of listening to your heart, of risking your all in order to do the right thing.

There is just so much in this book that I cannot even talk about.  I would rather you read it, than me breaking the storyline completely. There are times when you end up turning the pages in your quest to know what happens next, and I don’t want to take that away from you at all.

It is a big book but not once does it feel so as you read it.

Truly, if you haven’t read this book, you have to get your copy now and read it.
 
FIVE HEARTS


- Debolina Raja Gupta