Well, here's a first........I actually cried whilst sitting in the hairdressers chair yesterday, reading this book!! I couldn't stop reading it, though and after a brief pause whilst I rummaged for a tissue, blew my nose and wiped my eyes, I quickly opened up the book again to carry on where I had left off. I have never been good at sad, scary, violent or bloody books (or films come to that) and I usually choose not to read books of this nature. I get entirely engrossed in the story and identify so strongly with the characters that I sometimes feel as if I know them as well as any relative of mine. When my boys were small I cried for weeks after watching Bambi and The Land Before Time with them, I'm sure I would do the same if I was to see the videos again today. So imagine the scuffle I had with my conscience when I was deciding whether to read this book or not. I had seen so many glowing reviews about The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak and the title had featured on many of my fellow bloggers 'Best Book of all Time' and 'Most Memorable Book' lists. I kept seeing pictures of the front cover and I found it haunting, so, when a copy appeared in the secondhand bookshop, I had to bring it home. I stared at it on the TBR pile for a while and even put off reading it by escaping into a couple of romantic romps with Ms Jewell and Ms Fforde, but, still it beckoned and so, I took a deep breath and opened the front cover. I am so glad I did.
The book begins in 1939 and is set in pre-war Germany. Liesel Meminger and her brother are taking a train journey with their mother when the boy dies from a coughing fit, in his mothers arms. Unbeknown to Liesel, her mother and father have both been accused of being communists. Her father has been taken away by the authorities and since then Liesel's mother has been unable to find work. Ultimately she and her children are starving. and so she has decided the only way to save them is to put them into foster care. They are on their way to meet with the social worker for the hand over, when the boy dies. And that is only the beginning!!
Her foster parents are kindhearted folk and her 'papa', Hans Hubermann, is the gentlest of men. He teaches her to read and she falls in love with books. The story is about love and friendship, literature, kindness, man's inhumanity to man, the morality of theft and ultimately, death. It is thought provoking, heartbreakingly sad and un-put-downable.
And in the rhythm of the narrator here is some important information about The Book Thief:
*This novel is narrated by Death*
It is a story, about:
*Some Fanatical Germans*
*A Jewish Fist Fighter*
*and Quite a Lot of Thievery*
This is one of the most remarkable books I have ever read. Markus Zusak turns conventional storytelling on it's head and yet still manages to make the book so totally compelling that on several occasions I found myself reading on through my tears. It is not all totally depressing either, there are some lovely moments in the story which capture the essence of humanity at its finest.
Here are a couple of notes which appear throughout the book from the narrator:
-SOME CRUNCHED NUMBERS -
Since 1933, ninety percent of Germans showed
unflinching support for Adolf Hilter.
That leaves ten percent who didn't.
Hans Hubermann belonged to that ten percent.
There was a reason for that.
-TWO GIANT WORDS-
(An excerpt from Death's Diary)
-A SMALL PIECE OF TRUTH-
I do not carry a sickle of scythe.
I only wear a hooded black robe when it is cold.
And I don't have those skull-like
features you seem to enjoy
pinning on me from a distance. You
want to know what I truly look like?
I'll help you out. Find yourself
a mirror while I continue.
-SMALL BUT NOTEWORTHY NOTE-
I've seen so many young men
over the years who think that they are
running at other young men.
They are not.
They are running at me.
Have you read this book? (If not, why not :)
What did you think of it?