*This is a review which will be filled with spoilers for The Book Thief. Please don’t continue if you have yet to read this wonderful novel!*
So, after endless recommendations and the release of a movie, I finally read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak in Janurary. Well, mostly December I think it was. The amount of hype surrounding this book is unbelievable, but, I think, well deserved. Even with my super high expectations, I was not disappointed.
What I’m trying to say is that I couldn’t enjoy this novel as much as everyone else purely because of my own taste, however ignorant and, well, shameful, it may be.
Despite this, there were so many aspects of this book that I adored. The writing was superb and the characters rich. I loved the unique choice of narrator - Death was intriguing. (S)he would pop up sporadically, talking directly to the reader, as if to say “Remember me? I’m coming for you all!” Well, I perhaps naively believed that Death was only coming for Rudy for the majority of the story, but I’ll get to that later. It was interesting to me that Death was not made out to be a bad character. In fact, Death was pretty nice! Just a helper for those who have passed. It was a comforting thought, that poor lemon-haired Rudy was carried gently out of his world by a being who cared.
Of course I enjoyed the character of Liesel too. She was a very cool girl - she reminded me of my grandma, especially how she describes what she was like as a kid, which only made me feel more connected to Liesel. She was also exceptionally brave - how bad*** was that scene where she purposefully got hurt so she could escape the game and warn the Hubermanns about the basement inspection?! Naturally, I could relate to her love of books too. Reading about her book thievery and her times in the mayor’s wife’s library made me feel all warm inside, and I almost wished I could be there too.
I also had a great time reading about Liesel and Rudy’s time with their gang of thieves and their exploits. It was so much fun, even if it was illegal! I have to admit pretty much anything Liesel and Rudy did together was fun though. I adored the scene where they fed bread to the poor Jews passing through their town. It just goes to show how compassionate children can be, despite the consequences.
Perhaps my favourite part of the novel was Liesel and Max’s relationship. The stories Max made for Liesel were delightful, and I liked seeing how Liesel and her attitude had affected Max through his stories.
Another point I wanted to make was that, as much as I love Hans, I definitely appreciated Rosa. For all the reviews I’ve read of The Book Thief, I had never come across her name! I knew of Hans, because everyone seemed to be crazy about him, but nothing of Rosa! She reminded me a lot of Professor McGonagal - stern and even harsh, but you know that she truly has her loved ones’ best interests at heart. I think the best scene to describe this is the time that Rosa did exactly as Liesel asked and pulled her out of class to let her know that Max had woken after his illness. Sure, she could be mean, but she really did care about her little saumensch, Liesel. I should also mention that I wasn't too concerned about her physical punishment of Liesel - considering the time period the novel is set in I don't think it was unusual. I believe had the book been set in the current time it would have bothered me a lot more.
Now I suppose I should get to my thoughts about the ending. Sigh. It broke me. Just imagine this: It’s very late at night (well, technically early morning) and I’m sharing a room with my younger sister due to being on holiday. I read about how Death lovingly takes Hans and Rosa from their bed (Hans’ soul sitting up to meet Death). I read about how gently Death takes the poor Rudy Steiner. I’m reading about HOW THE ENTIRE FREAKING STREET IS NOW DEAD except Liesel and how she has to see all the bodies. And how she finally (too late) gives Rudy a kiss. All the while I am trying to keep the noise of my ugly crying down so as not to wake my sister. I was not happy. In fact, I was fairly angry! How dare they die - I cared about them! I did feel satisfied, however, by the fact that Liesel got to live with the mayor and his wife and that she got to see Max again. (Oh, how glad I was that Max survived.)
My final thought after finishing this book: I can’t wait to inflict the pain of this story on my family when I force them to watch the movie with me!
As usual, be sure to let me know your thoughts in the comments!