I wasn’t quite sure if this book was really going to live up to my expectation until I reached the very end. Although it did move me to some extent, the tidal wave of emotions that I had been expecting didn’t arrive;
Until I reached the chapter, The End of the World (Part Ⅱ) to be more specific.
Set in the years 1939 – 1943, Nazi Germany, The Book Thief weaves a story of a German girl, Liesel, and her encounters with the inhabitants on her street.
She loses her brother on their way to their new foster parents’ home and she commits her very first thievery after her brother’s burial ceremony.
She picks up a book lodged in the snow – The beginning of Liesel’s book thievery.
To me, this book felt like a collage of the lives of inhabitants of Himmel Street rather than a story.
There is, indeed, a solid story line running underneath the entire book, but I think the vast majority of the book is about Liesel and the people whom she gets to know or comes to love.
There is Rudy, there is Papa, most importantly, there is Max. A Jew who left a big impact on Liesel and with whom Liesel forms a very strong friendship.
Stories with individual characters are woven amazingly in detail and are entertaining, but the real culmination of the tension (at least for me) arrives at the remaining 20 pages mark. This is where all the stories come to life. This is where this book hit me in the feels and made me all welled-up.
I particularly loved the friendship between Liesel and Max. They respectively become indispensable to each other. With Max being a Jew, Papa and Mama know what it means to hide Max from the pursuit of Nazi, what consequences await them, but they risk everything to protect Max and to keep a secret that Papa had made to Max’s father.
Such details behind each character serve very well to make this book emotionally engaging and captivating.
The writing is absolutely gorgeous; I don’t know how to articulate what it feels like.
It’s stunningly beautiful, lyrical and poetic. More than anything, it’s generally calm and quiet, yet very strong.
What struck me interesting about this book is that the story is narrated by Death himself and I really liked his voice. His narration is dignified, yet I sensed the humor in his voice. He is very calm, collected and observant, too. Although this story is told through the eyes of Death and sets in Nazi Germany, it didn’t feel morbid and depressing so much. Not that I’m saying that it’s all uplifting, which is definitely not the case, but it is NOT all bleak and gloom. Through Death’s very observant detailed narration, we can get a glipmse of happiness (albeit occasionally) in Liesel’s life.
He says ‘Just don’t ask me to be nice. Nice has nothing to do with me,’ but I felt he is actually nice. I could even feel some warmth in his voice.
The main characters are all lovable and in particular, the bond between Papa and Liesel literally warmed the cockles of my heart. Which is all the more reason why the aforementioned scene broke me; I know it’s inevitable, yet it still hurts.
This book is rather long with 538 page count and this is not a fast-paced quick read.
This is one of those books that should be savored and devoured by taking as long as one needs to let the story sink in.
This is a story of life, friendship and keeping promise. It is simply stunningly beautiful and maginificent.
Even if you feel it a bit dull with not so much going on, the jolt does come in the end.
This book does need patience. I’m so glad that I read it. I will definitely reread it.