As soon as I finished reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak last night, I knew that I would do a terrible job of coming up with a concise synopsis. There is so much to the book that’s important that I don’t know where to start. But I will try.
At the age of 9 and living in Nazi Germany, Liesel Meninger watches her brother die aboard a train. They are with their mother, on the way to the foster family that will be caring for Liesel and her brother, but Liesel doesn’t quite understand why her mother is giving them up. Before they reach their destination, they must stop to bury her brother in a cemetery along the route and once he is buried, Liesel finds a book in the snow near his grave – The Grave Digger’s Handbook. Even though she can’t read, Liesel takes the book with her to her new home with Rosa and Hans Hubermann. It is Hans that helps Liesel learn to read and ignites her love of reading, sparking an interest in books which will lead to more thefts.
As she grows into her new life with the Hubermanns, Liesel becomes good friends with a neighbor boy and shares many adventures with him – from stealing books to stealing apples from farmers. It isn’t until the Hubermanns take in a Jew and hide him in their basement that Liesel’s life begins to change in a deeper way. Through the friendship she forms with this man, she eventually realizes how powerful her knowledge of words truly is.
I honestly don’t even know how to begin to describe how I felt about this book except for saying that I loved it. Aside from World War II and Nazi Germany, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I began reading it. It took me a little longer than I would have liked to get into it, but once I got through the first few chapters, I was hooked. To be honest, I didn’t really feel that emotionally involved for much of the book. Yes, I reached parts where I was thinking, “Oh my God, what’s going to happen to him/her?” or, “No! Why would you do that??” but I didn’t find myself thinking of the characters randomly throughout the day.
Until I reached the last 100 pages.
All I will tell you is that I lay in bed last night with the intention of reading a few more chapters and finishing the book today. And then I found myself turning page after page with tears streaming down my face. And now I keep thinking of everyone in that book as if I actually knew them. I won’t say more than that because I don’t want to give anything away. I should mention, though, that the narrator does give away the ending towards the middle of the book, and even though you know that you know the ending, it doesn’t really make it any less surprising.
One of my favorite aspects of this book was that it really showed these characters in a different way than what I’m used to, but I can’t quite explain why it was different. Maybe it was the style of writing, which seemed almost poetic. I’ll stop going on and on about it. Do yourself a favor and read it.