Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

It took me a few minutes to realize that the book is narrated by Death. I thought that was a pretty interesting twist to a book.

The story starts out with Death meeting Leisel Meminger for the first time. She is with her mother and brother on a train headed to her new foster family. Leisel's brother dies along the way and that is where Death first encounters Leisel. It is also where Leisel steals her first book.

Leisel's foster parents are a bit older and her new mama is a bit of a tyrant. Papa spends many nights helping Leisel learn to read and get through her nightmares. The setting and time of the story is in Germany during World War II. Hitler is as at his peak and the Jews are despised. Leisel and her family survive on Mama's awful tasting pea soup. Among all of the children in their small town is a boy named Rudy who befriends Leisel.

When Leisel's foster parents need to repay a debt to a man that saved Papa's life they end up hiding a Jewish man in their basement. Leisel befriends Max through the course of time.

The story progresses through World War II and the hardships and risks Leisel and her family encounter. Leisel's mother takes in laundry to help the family survive. One of her customers is the mayor's wife. The second book Leisel steals is a book from a book burning sanctioned by Hitler. Leisel knows she has been seen by the mayor's wife. Eventually the mayor's wife shows Leisel her library of books and Leisel spends many hours reading among the books. Eventually though the mayor fires Leisel's mama. In bitterness Leisel goes to the mayor's house and steals her 3rd book.

Food is rationed and Rudy and Leisel are so hungry that they join a group of children on the streets who steal food from local farms. Both Rudy and Leisel have a knack for thievery and a desire for survival. Unfortunately death visits Leisel and those closest to her once again.

My Thoughts:

Usually I will read a book first before I watch the movie version. But in this case I watched the movie first and then picked up the book. I actually enjoyed both. I did find that the book was a bit confusing. I'm not sure if it was just my Kindle version or if that is the way that the book is, but some of the abbreviated headings I found hard to distinguish if it was the narrator(Death) or some other characters thoughts. But that aside, I did like the book. I liked the characters. Rudy was a hoot. From painting himself black and calling himself Jesse Owens, to his constant hope that someday Leisel would bestow a kiss on him, Rudy was a free spirited young man with a desire to live and a knack for getting into trouble.

The treatment of the Jews and those who came to their help was brutal. Every time I read a Holocaust based story I shudder at the idea that people could be so evil to other human beings. I could go preachy here, but I won't. I will just leave it at the fact that the book is set in a dark time in history.

I loved how Leisel's love for her foster parents developed. Even for Rosa her crusty foster mama, Leisel developed a love for both. Her papa was her anchor though. With his hours of helping her read, to his hours of playing his accordion. Hans was a good man through and through.

The ending of The Book Thief wasn't very satisfying, and it was pretty sad. I guess I would have liked to know more of what happened after WWII with Leisel. What became of her? Who did she marry? What scars were left to her throughout the rest of her life?

For the most part the movie and book followed each other. Of course there were things that couldn't be told in the movie because of length. How do you condense a 550 page book into a 2 hour movie? I thought they did a pretty good job. And I did eventually get used to Death narrating the story in both the movie and the book.

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