Zusak, Markus. The Book Thief. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005. Kindle file.
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The narrative voice that starts this story is first person death. This is an interesting choice, as death travels to all places at all times, especially during a war.
The narrative voice introduces the reader to Liesel Meminger, the book thief. Death sees the colors of red, white and black when he thinks of her. He tells us her story. Most of the story takes place between 1939-1943. Hitler is rising in power and Germany is changing. Jews are being rounded up and sent away.
The narrative voice interjects observations, notes, and information to help the reader understand more of the story and also drops clues of what is to come. The narrative voice has a wry sense of humor.
It made me laugh on more than one occasion. I enjoyed the side notes he provided. For example, "I do not carry a sickle or scythe. I only wear a hooded black robe when it's cold. And I don't have those skull-like facial features you seem to enjoy pinning on me from a distance" (Zusak).
Liesel is taken to the Hubermanns for foster care. Her mother can no longer care for her, her father (a Communist) is gone and her brother is dead. Rosa Hubermann is strict, has "a distinct waddle to her walk" and cusses quite a lot (Zusak). She does washing for other families. Hans is quiet, paints, plays the accordion and rolls his own cigarettes. They ask Liesel to call them Mama and Papa.
The irony of Liesel being the book thief is that she cannot read. Hans tries to help her and is a comfort to her young soul. He is gentle and caring--quite the opposite of his wife Rosa. "If I ever ask you to keep a secret for me, you will do it" Hans says. Liesel promises she will. The secret is learned and kept.
"She was a girl. In Nazi Germany. How fitting that she was discovering the power of words" (Zusak).
The events and characters in the story are intertwined. Often things are seen, but not seen. This is how we live. We don't always see the connections. Enemies are actually friends. Lessons are repeated.
This book has many characters, many poignant moments, many historical elements, many surprises and many lessons about humanity that makes it a good read. It's hard to talk about the book with any satisfaction. It must be read and experienced.
Rudy Steiner becomes Liesel's best friend and ally. "In years to come, he would be a giver of bread, not a stealer--proof again of the contradictory human being. So much good, so much evil. Just add water" (Zusak).
Hans Junior--son, Nazi. He calls his father a coward. His story will tragically end in Stalingrad, Russia.
Ilsa Hermann, mayor's wife, allows her in to library
books belong to Johann Hermann--her son, died 1918
Arthur Berg-apple, food thief
Viktor Chemmel-leads thief gang
Max Vandenburg is hiding---goes to Hubermann's--Max's dad (Erik Vandenburg--taught him to play the accordion) actually saved Hans in Great War--volunteers for handwriting. "That was the first time Hans Hubermann escaped me. ...Not many men are lucky enough to cheat me twice" (Zusak).
Walter Kugler helps Max (they use to fight each other--in that became friends)
"Do you still play the accordion?" = "Will you still help me?"
Viktor throws The Whisperer in the river--Rudy retrieves it
Max is sick--brought up to Liesel's bed--after snowman in basement--Liesel starts bringing him gifts (flattened ball, ribbon, pinecone, button, stone, feather, two newspapers, candy wrapper, cloud "Memorize it. Then write it down for him" (Zusak). toy soldier, miraculous leaf, finished whistler, slab of grief)
Liesel steals 2nd book from mayor's library The Dream Carrier
Max wakes up!
Bombing takes Himmel Street--except Liesel who is reading in the "too shallow" basement
Liesel finds Max in "parade" through town--she is whipped by soldier, too
Liesel tells Rudy story of Max
Ilsa Hermann tells Liesel to write if she can't read any more words (Liesel destroyed book)
back to bombing--kissed Rudy (he's already dead)
holds Mama's hand and talks to her; can't look at Papa. gets his accordion for him
death picks up Liesel's book
"Liesel Meminger lived to a very old age"--Ilsa and husband pick her up at police station
Alex Steiner comes back--Liesel spends time with him in the shop; Max returns!
Death says "I am haunted by humans"