The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Among book lovers, there is an unwritten rule: the book is ALWAYS better than the movie. This time, if it wasn’t for the film, I would have missed this mesmerizing novel which now sits among my favorites.

A book that would have remained unread

I’ll be honest. Only a few films have made me cry like The Book Thief. I’ve had weird dreams about Nazis and death for days after watching it. So imagine my surprise when I realized that the book had stood unread on my shelf for years.

It was one of those novels that I couldn’t go on with. I started it and dropped it many times until the right time to read came.
I read The Book Thief last year in February.
A very close friend of mine suffered a terrible loss and my mind was filled with many unanswered questions.
Why her? Why now?
I guess this wish for knowledge put me in the right mood to empathize with a novel narrated by Death itself.

Death is something we all have to face, eventually. Could we fear Death less if we considered it as a living creature? Someone with feelings and regrets. Someone who hates its job?.
We could come up with such an answer only with the heavy use of fantasy. That’s why Markus Zusak should always be praised for giving us Death perspective.

The Book Thief plot

In the novel, Death does its job dutifully. Occasionally, though, its attention is caught by people. An attraction that goes beyond taking them to the other world.
This is the case for the unfortunate and illiterate Liesel. Death notices her during her brother’s funeral. As hinted by the book title, she is caught by death in the act of stealing her first book.
As Liesel is assigned to a new family, written words become for her a way of bonding with her adoptive parents. They also allow a deep connection with the young Jew that the Hubermanns hide in their basement.
Eventually, when all other diversions are over, stealing books becomes her only relief.

I won’t spoil the ending, but the words used by Death throughout the novel are as touching as few others I’ve ever read. My copy of The Book Thief will always be stained by my tears.

The International Holocaust Remembrance Day from another perspective

Whenever the International Holocaust Remembrance Day approaches, we’re used to a dedicated show schedule, at least here in Italy.
It goes without saying that those movies or documentaries are narrated from a Jewish perspective, and rightfully so.

The Book Thief, though, narrates war through the eyes of a “normal and Arian” German girl. In the common narration, German people are seen as the bad guys. Liesel could have played that part with her blue eyes and blond hair. Yet, in the depths of war, she loses and suffers just as much as her Jewish peers.

I guess that the final message of The Book Thief is that when faced with wars there are no winners or losers. Just like in front of death, we’re all alike.

Categories: Books


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