Book: The Book Thief
Reviewed by: Madiha Akhtar
There are two types of fiction; one where you read through the pages and are lost in a story that keeps you hooked till you reach the last page of the novel, and then there is the second kind of fiction which keeps haunting your mind even after finishing the book. Books are a source of happiness in a depressing world and reading encourages you to think beyond the existing world. ‘The Book Thief’ falls in the latter category.
Published in 2005, the story showcases the events of World War II which is also the backdrop of the novel. Liesel Meminger, a prime protagonist of this story arrives at Himmel Street in a distraught state to live with her foster family. During her stay, she tries to live a normal life despite witnessing the horror of the Nazi regime. In a short time, Liesel develops a strong connection with her foster father, Hans Hubermann, who introduces her to the world of books. Apparently, the first book which she learnt to read was stolen at her brother’s funeral. She did not know how to read or write but Hans taught her to read. Liesel also made a friend, Rudy, who used to like her. Then there is a fist-fighter, Max, who is kept hidden in the basement of her foster parents’ home because he is Jewish - and the Nazis loathed the Jews.
Liesel has a profound love for books; her love is illustrated so beautifully in the following lines when she encounters a horde of books at the mayor’s library for the first time:
“She ran the back of her hand across the first shelf, listening to the shuffle of her finger nails, gliding across the spinal cord of each book. It sounded like instruments or notes of running feet.”
I can relate to Liesel’s emotion because I also feel the same when I am around books. The ecstatic feeling I have while holding a book is indescribable. A person having so much love for books that even the mention of it brings a smile on her face so why does Liesel choose to be a book thief? In my opinion the title ‘Book thief’ is not used in a negative connotation. In fact, it’s a symbolism of defiance against the clench of the Nazis. During the Second World War, the Nazis burnt tens of thousands of books. Hence, Liesel’s book stealing is an act of defiance and a protest against the atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis.
The peculiarity of this book is that Death is the narrator. Usually we consider death as ruthless but in this story, Death is portrayed differently. The last sentence of Death in the novel - “I am haunted by humans” - shows Death’s perspective.
Credit goes to the author, Markus Zusak, for having written such an innovative and interesting read. There is no single moment when you feel bored or lose interest while reading. Words are a significant component of any write-up, and story is the heartbeat of a good novel. Markus knows how to touch the chords of his readers’ heart. His story has a poignant feel and each word holds an immense profundity. It’s elegant, philosophical and moving. This is one book which you need to read slowly and savour every moment of reading.
I choose to end with the last lines of Liesel in the novel:
“I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope that I have made them right.”