- Author: Markus Zusak
- Publisher: Random House (original publisher Knopf Books)
- Publishing Date: March 2006
- Pages: 554
Note: The following review contains some German words used in The Book Thief. If you haven’t read The Book Thief or do not know the meaning of those words, please consider consulting The Book Thief Glossary.
“Here is a small fact, you are going to die.”
Do you like death? Death has many names–deceased, passed, lifeless, resting in piece, expired, and numerous others including arschloch. But have you ever wondered what does death feel about you? You curse death like it’s the end of the world (which it is for that matter), but even death does not escape the skepticism of death itself.
There are a lot of misconceptions about death as it is a hideous thing, and people ask one question the most, to no one in particular. “Why me?” If someone you love dies, ‘Why Me?’, if something harsh happens to you, ‘Why Me?’ You are so much absorbed with questioning this that you don’t realize that it is not just ‘you,’ it’s everyone. Anything can happen to anyone, and there is no ‘greater power’ working against you to stop you from doing anything (although that would be a good metaphor to hide your incompetencies). Death loathes you for that because death does not want to do what it does, it is ordered to do it by someone else, someone who is above Death. Disliking death for doing what it is ordered to do is the same as disliking yourself for not doing that one rodeo your mom told you to do. “You had one job,” she says, “Take out the trash and you couldn’t even do it you arshloch.” You are obliged to do something when someone who has more authority over you tells you to do it, whether it is your boss at work or your teacher asking for your homework. It is something that you have to do because you are bound to it and there will be consequences when you don’t finish the task and no matter how much you ‘schimpfen‘ over it, you can not surmount over it without being impelled to do so. Death is the same, no matter what your opinion is of death, it is not something that you take for granted because sometimes, even death does not want to do what it is supposed to do.
“It’s warm outside as well as inside, the temperature is 30° Celsius but I am shivering. I am hunted, I am haunted.”
There are some things which you can’t rush, some things that you have to go through slowly to commend them whose importance you might not realize at the moment because of your innocence but rather later at a time when you will find it affecting your life, whether it is puberty or a girl/boy who you think is the one for you but that is just a wishful thinking, and you might not realize it until a later part of your life that one little heartbreak is the best thing that has happened to you. The Book Thief is precisely like that.
“Like most misery, it started with apparent happiness.”
There is always something unnoticeable going on which you might not even recognize plays an important part later in continuing that small story over the extended period of the book. When you were a child, you always wanted to reach beyond what you were capable of, that could have been the cookie jar that your parents put on the top shelf so you couldn’t reach it or it could have been that bully whom you wanted to beat so much because he stole your lunch or harassed you. But that can’t happen in an instant, it takes time, and as you grow older, you grow stronger and taller and in the end, you reach for that cookie jar or confront that bully. Every small thing that you do adds up to something bigger and in the end, it pays off, and when you look back at that transition period, it feels that it was such a short time ago that you were that helpless little kid who wanted to do everything.
“What? You little saumensch. You can not break my heart like this. SAUMENSCH!!”
That is where the main strength of the story comes in; the power that it emits is not felt when it starts but it grows, and you begin to notice the small things that take place. Which contributes to the infatuation of the story; you can not just be informed about the Nazi and feel like you’ve read a historical fiction novel. It’s all about the details, about being there and not being there at the same time. It is about contemplating the different activities and people’s livelihood, it can not be experienced by a person living in this modern era. Thus, it is essential that the narrative lugs you from the beginning until the end.
“It kills me sometimes, how people die.”
The story is of a saumensch Liesel Meminger, who is taken away from her family and sent to live with a foster family. Along with her friends and family, Liesel will embark on a journey which will forever change her life and might as well yours. The power of the story does not come from the story because there has been much historical fiction done before, the power of the story comes from the narration. Death narrates this story, and this gives you an interesting point of view to read from because he is not a person (he is a saukerl), he does not possess human feelings and what he thinks about human life, and what it is worth. It that drives the story forward which such competence that as lightly as it starts, it soon grows to be a dark, hard-hitting story.