*furiously wipes tears from eyes* Nope. No. No really, I’m not crying. *distant wailing from back of the car.* I promise you that isn’t me.
That was me. I finished The Book Thief in the car surrounded by my family so having an emotional breakdown wouldn’t have been an acceptable thing to do. I assure you I was sobbing uncontrollably on the inside.
Rather than breaking down, I sat and stared thoughtfully out the window for a long while with my lips pressed closed. It’s one of those books that leaves you contemplating life and happiness and anguish.
I’m sure most of you have heard of The Book Thief before, as it was made into a movie five years ago or so, and continues to be a best seller. All of that being said, I’m not quite sure why it took me so long to get around to reading it. Perhaps because the story is narrated by Death? (It’s not as morbid as it sounds… never mind. It’s WWII, much dying and many tears are involved.)
Before I move on, here’s a brief plot summary. In a German train in 1939, Liesel Meminger watches her brother succumb to a coughing disease. The two were making their way to their new foster parents in Munich on Himmel Street. Only Liesel arrives. Despite her heartache, Liesel finds joy and love on Himmel Street. These introduce themselves to her in her sweet foster father, smart mouthed foster mother, mischievous best friend Rudy, kind Jewish hideaway Max, and in words. Liesel falls in love with books and with words, a love that propels her to steal them.
The story itself was simple, but so sweet and profound. Mr. Zusak really did an amazing job at portraying life as it was in Nazi Germany. There was happiness despite the evil. Goodness despite the heinous. This is what truly illuminated The Book Thief.
Now, it wouldn’t be right of me to end this review here because I had a couple of issues with this book.
- The language.
Almost everyone I know who has read this mention the profanity. They aren’t over exagerating. Of course I don’t condone the use of language, but I don’t mind the d word or the h word in as much as other words in books. This one went far beyond those two. Granted some of the more colorful metaphors where in German, but that doesn’t change their meanings. The biggest problem I had was the careless use of Jesus’s name. Jesus is our Savior. He is God. He deserves the glory due His name. To throw His name around so carelessly and without reverence is evil. I’m sorry. There’s not other way to put it.
2. The stealing.
Now of course I cheer for Liesel when she rescues precious books from Nazi fires. (Go Liesel!) But when she starts to steal from innocent people and joins a gang of teenagers who rob farms. Not cool friends. For the most part though, this was a minor issue.
3. The narrator.
The narrator of The Book Thief is Death. Now, I wouldn’t actually call this objectionable. But it is a point that you should consider before reading it. Rather than making the book excessively morbid, it actually highlights the goodness that shines through in the darkest of times, because even Death himself is looking for spots of light. To me, it truly added such an interesting contrast to the story and thoughtful perspective.
Overall, I absolutely loved The Book Thief. Mr. Zusak is an extremely creative author and crafts unique metaphors. (That one extended metaphor of falling snow in Frau Holtzapfel’s house, wow, just wow. Plain brilliance.) He evoked such feelings through his unconventional writing style. The friendships portrayed in the story are so sweet and loving and raw. Liesel and Rudy. Liesel and Max. Liesel and Papa. Liesel and Mama. (*wails incessantly over… never mind I mus’ent spoil the book*)
I definitely encourage you to read this modern masterpiece that celebrates life, love, and words. Really, that’s what words seek to portray, life and love. That is what makes them precious. Love and words are what shine through even in the darkest of eras.
“I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.”
(Images from Google and Pinterest.)