Tuesday, December 17, 2013

REVIEW: The Book Thief - Markus Zusak

"This is the tale of the book thief, as narrated by Death. And when Death tells a story, you really have to listen.
It's a small story really, about, amongst other things:

A girl
An accordionist
Some fanatical Germans
A Jewish fist fighter
And quite a lot of thievery. "
It is a small story. But there are people in this story, quite ironically (and maybe even fittingly), brought to life by Death. Now, do not hasten and conjure up the image of the grim reaper, with a scythe - Death says that if we want to know what he look like, maybe we should look into a mirror. He says he needs a distraction to keep him sane, and he seeks this in colours. What does he need distraction from, you ask? It's the survivors. And this is the story of a "perpetual survivor-an expert at being left behind", Liesel Meminger, starring in and as The Book Thief. Someone who was seen by Death, three times before it was her turn.

For me, few books can claim to have put me in "the mood", which this book did. I think it was because of the narration. When a story is narrated by Death, it isn't wrong to expect the mood to be morbid, is it? But this is exactly what the book isn't. Liesel, with her innocence, bravery, cussing skills, and imagination breathes through the pages, and even though someone else is narrating her story in third person, we see Himmel Street through her eyes. There is humour tinged with sadness, because Death has the good sense (and kindness, did we expect that?) to tell us that this story does not have a happy ending. So we wait.

We allow this book to take us from the moment Liesel is put into the care of her foster parents, just after her first tryst with Death, just after she's stolen her first book. We're introduced to Papa (who by the way, became my favourite father figure) and Mama (who she learns her cussing skills from), Rudy ("How about that kiss, saumensch?"), and Max (with hair like feathers, who fought the F├╝hrer in a basement, whose eyes were burnt by stars, and who walked on a tightrope made of clouds to the sun with Liesel). We learn about Jesse Owens with hair the colour of lemons, about the books Liesel stole, about the most valuable pages that she ever owned, about Word Shakers, about promises that were kept and lives that were taken. And then...comes the waterworks.


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