The Book Thief: Yet Profound Love for Books

There are two types of fiction, one where you read through the pages and

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you are lost in a story and it keeps you hooked until you don’t reach the last page of the novel, and then there is second kind of fiction which keeps you haunted even after finishing the book.  I believe that a book gives you a feel of fresh breeze in a suffocated environment! A person devoid of words will live in repression but a literate person will transcend against the injustice and cruelty.  Books are a source of happiness in a depressing world and it 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 arrived at the distraught state to the foster family who reside in Himmel Street. During her stay, she tries to live a normal life despite the horror of Nazis. In the meantime, Liesel developed a strong connection with her foster father Hans Hubermann who introduced the world of books to her. 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 was a fist-fighter, Max, who was kept hidden in the basement of her home by her foster parents only because he was a Jewish and Nazis loathed Jews.

Liesel had a profound love for books; her love is illustrated so beautifully in the following lines when she encountered horde of books at a 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.”

As a reader, I can relate to Liesel’s emotion because I also feel same when I am around books. The ecstatic feeling I have while holding a book is immeasurable.  A person having so much love for books that even the mention of it brings a smile on her face so why Liesel chose to be a book thief? In my opinion the title ‘Book thief’ is not used in negative connotation, in fact it’s a symbolism of freedom against the clench of Nazis led by Adolf Hitler. During second world war, Nazis attacked the art and literature by burning tens of thousands of books. Hence Liesel’s book stealing acts as symbol of freedom and expression against the atrocities of those times.

The peculiarity  of this book is that death is the narrator.  Usually we consider death as callous but here in this story; death is less-threatening. Regardless of its ubiquity in the times of horrific war, the last sentence of death in the novel; “I am haunted by humans” is a true embodiment of compassion.

I want to give entire credit to the author, Markus Zusak who has written an inventive and interesting read. There is no single moment when you feel like bore or lose interest while reading.  Words are 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 savor each moment during reading.

I choose to end my review with the last lines of the Liesel (read: the book thief) in the novel:

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

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