Book discussion: The Book Thief

Book Title: The Book Thief

Author: Markus Zusak

Genre: Historical Fiction

★★★★★

It’s just a small story really, about, among other things, a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery.Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist: books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids – as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.

This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.

– Goodreads

 

When I first read this book, I knew nothing about Nazi Germany, except that there was an evil guy called Hitler and Jews were killed in concentration camps. I was interested in History, especially in WWII, but with no knowledge about it, I didn’t understand what death was talking about. Since this book is slow, and I had no idea what was happening, I decided to stop reading it until I had my History lessons.

“A small fact:
You are going to die….does this worry you?”

Death, as I’ve mentioned before, is the narrator. Death is omnipotent, during war or not. It’s watching over us, and we have no idea when it will come and collect us (sounds depressing).

“You want to know what I truly look like? I’ll help you out. Find yourself a mirror while I continue.”

This quote literally gave me chills.

One of the life lessons this book teaches us is that death is EVERYWHERE, and we need to have to courage to face it. Death will pick us up anyway, it’s just the matter of time, so why waste your energy being scared. Just like Hans:

“His soul sat up. It met me. Those kinds of souls always do – the best ones.I know who you are and I am ready. Not that I want to go, of course, but I will come.” Those souls are always light because more of them have been put out. More of them have already found their way to other places.”

Okay. Enough of this depressing and cheesy theory.

The Power of Word

“I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.”

As seen in the Nazi Germany, Hitler used propagandas and his speeches to persuade, or brainwash, I would say, the Germans. Words manipulated people, twisted their thinking thus helped Hitler to achieve his ambition. There were censorships at that time. Why? Because Hitler understood that words are powerful. They could be used as a weapon against him.

One of the best parts of this book is the story Max left for Liesel. Words were trees, and the people who climbed the trees were called word shakers. There were numerous Führer’s trees in the forest, but a girl planted a different seed. The Führer demanded the tree to be cut down, but once the girl boarded the tree, not even the sharpest ax could leave a mark.

Hitler destroyed people using words, but Liesel stole them back. She used them to calm down people during bombing and wrote her own story. A beautiful, touching story.

The Jews and the Germans

The Book Thief showed me a different perspective. History class merely taught me that Jews were treated horribly, but The Book Thief taught me that some Germans did stand up and helped the Jews, even though it meant that their lives would be at risk – Hans hid Max, and Liesel called out to Max when the Jews were parading. These are small acts of ordinary bravery. Not everyone bow down to Hitler, not every teenager obeyed.

The Jewish fist-fighter, Max. That part where Max fought the Führer. Breathtaking. He hoped that he would win, but ended up being hit by the fists of an entire nation. Until a girl appeared. His hope.

“Millions of them-until one last time, when he gathered himself to his feet… He watched the next person climbed through the ropes. It was a girl, and as she slowly crossed the canvas, he noticed a tear torn down her left cheek. In her right hand was a newspaper.”

This is the best scene. I love it so much.

I was surprised that Max survived at last. I thought he’d be killed in the concentration camp. Perhaps he fought to survive because of Liesel, Hans and Rosa. Somehow hope will get you through the darkest hour.

Humans

“I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race – that rarely do I even simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant…I AM HAUNTED BY HUMANS.”

War is the darkest time of human race. You would be shown the ugliness of human. And yet, it’s these times that the humans show their most brilliant side. Everything have two sides, and it is us to choose which side to be discovered. Somehow, the best comes from the worse.

I could go on and on discussing about the themes, but I’d stop here now.

I heard people saying that the writing is beautiful and poetic. Sometimes I love how figurative language is used, but sometimes I don’t understand the link between them. I agree that the writing is unique and special. However, perhaps due to my lack of experiences, I can’t bring myself to appreciate the writing in some particular scenes.

Nevertheless, I really enjoy this book, and I’d recommend to everyone. It is one of those books with deep meaning, so if you don’t get it the first time, re-read it. Think about it. The treasure behind those words and pages is priceless. Oh and also, if you don’t like the beginning and want to give up, DON’T. I promise you the story will get better.

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