Book Review: The Book Thief

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What a book! The book thief by Markus Zusak is a story of a 9 nine year old girl Liesel in Germany during the time of World War II. Strangely the book is narrated by ‘death’. Initially it sounds a bit strange and creepy to see the world from the eyes of death whose job is to collect the souls of the dead. This is what it had been doing since forever. It is tired of doing so and wants a break. But then there is no substitute of death.

I knew about the WWII partially. But this book presents the actual life of the common peasants during those time. One can feel and visualize the hardships faced by the people. Scarcity of basic necessities. Ill treatment of the Jews. Concentration camps. Marches and parades. Horror dreams of the survivors. Watching near and dear ones die in front of one’s own eyes. War times. Death describes how war was very difficult time for it, as it had to collect so many souls of the dead…

The story is about Liesel who is abandoned by her parents to a foster family as they are unable to take care of their children. On the way Liesel watches her brother die and this memory haunts her for a long time. Her foster mother is a short tempered, talkative woman. There is a very beautiful relationship between her foster father and her. He patiently teaches her to read and write, which plays a major role in her life ahead. He is like a pillar of strength and support for her. She is friends with a neighbourhood boy Rudy and they have great times together. Numerous happenings of her life are described like.. Her school life. Football games in the evenings. Helping her Mama in the daily chores. And food of her life – reading. Sometimes the story seems so normal just like a regular day.. But then suddenly there is bombing and war. Probably that’s how even our life is… most of the part is routine life filled with happy and sad times in between..

The main thing which keeps Liesel sane in difficult times is her love for books. Papa teaches her to read and write initially. The progress is slow. But Liesel loves reading and very soon picks up. Together they read the same book multiple times every night. Her passion for reading is so strong that she starts stealing books and is thus called a book thief. Later on she writes her own story in the form of book which ultimately saves her life during WWII. This book shows the power of words on individuals and masses.

The book is about 550 pages. All the charecters are describes so well that they almost come to life in our minds. There is not much of suspense as readers can foresee some of the events (mainly deaths). Still the overall story builds up nicely. I would recommend reading it in a day or two to get the complete feel of the narration. It will make one think about life, death, friendship, love, challenges, hardships, inspirations and much more. More importantly how to find and then hold on to ray of hope in grim times.

“The words. Why did they have to exist? Without them, there wouldn’t be any of this.”

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When, What to do ?

In times of despair,
Don’t lose hope.

In times of success,
Don’t go over the board.

In times of disaster,
Lend a helping hand.

In times of competition,
Compete with yourself.

In times of danger,
Fight with valor.

In times of silence,
Discover peace within yourself.

In times of jealousy,
Count your blessings.

In times of love,
Fill yourself with joy.

In times of hatred,
Keep away from negativity.

In times of ecstasy,
Discover extreme happiness.

In times of doubt,
Have faith.

In times of nothingness,
Discover the void.

In all times,
Be yourself !