Hi everyone. I hope you have all been doing wonderfully this past weekend. I learned something rather surprising yesterday that I didn’t know about, so I was reeling for a while there.
Anyway, I have another Book Experience post today, and this time, I’m going to be doing it on The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. WARNING: There will be spoilers, more likely than not. And I have a feeling this will turn out rather long and ramble-y, so forgive me for the wall-of-text.
I feel that everyone in the world has read this book already, but I just finished it last week, so yay, I’m part of the crowd now. Not sure how I feel about that (being part of the crowd because I rather like my solitude, if you understand), but I am really glad I got to read it. Look at all those Post-It tabs. Yes, I went a little crazy.
So, I found out about this book because there seems to be quite a lot of hype over it still, even though it’s been out for years (surprisingly), and I’ve been hearing about it and hearing about it for a while before I decided I would just go get myself a copy just to see what it was about. I think the only thing I knew about it at the time was that it was narrated by Death, which I found really fascinating.
I have a thing about misunderstood characters, especially characters who people think/believe are inherently bad or evil, so like Severus Snape from Harry Potter series or Silas from The Da Vinci Code. Are they really so bad or evil, or do they have something more behind them and inside them? I remember when I was taking a class on John Milton, I wrote my entire final research paper on Satan in Paradise Lost. Really fascinating, all of it. Of course, I won’t say that I’m so naive to think that there is always something good, but I don’t want to believe that it’s always something bad either.
Anyway, this is why I found Death to be the most intriguing character. Characters have always been the top reasons why I get pulled into stories, the plot itself being the next reason. I have such a… deep love for characters, and Death in this novel is definitely up there. I’m sure that we all have this portrayal of Death in our minds, how we fear death, think it’s unfair or a punishment, how we resist it with all of our life… but the portrayal of Death in The Book Thief is quite unique.
Death first piqued my interest on page 4, when he wonders, “The question is, what color will everything be at that moment when I come for you? What will the sky be saying?” The idea of how Death perceives color? That’s what I thought because I always think of Death as dark, black, maybe red. Not this one though. I wondered what kind of colors Death would see. I remember that as I continued reading, Death sort of retreated into the background for a long time, a good first part of the book at least, until I almost forgot that it was his story, that he was the one narrating all of this.
Midway through the book, in the first snippet of part five on page 242, when he was talking about how Rudy would have loved that kiss Liesel gave him… the way Death said those lines, I felt my heartstrings getting tugged so hard. Somehow, he felt so real, so human, so many feelings of bitterness and regret, just… hard to describe. That’s when I went, “Goddamnit Death…” I feel -for- him, just as I did Rudy.
There’s probably a lot I can say about Death, like I can write an entire essay on him with his subtle entrances here and there, his presence throughout the novel. It felt good having him as a narrator, and he came back at the end of the book, which I was excited about. There was a line that was pretty thoughtful: “I’m in most places at least once, and in 1943, I was just about everywhere” (539). It was the same feeling I got while watching the movie In Time, and the one character gave all his time to Justin Timberlake’s character and told him, “Don’t waste my time.” Double meaning! I like that. Makes you rethink a common saying.
Anyway, the last page. I love the last page. And the last line. So poignant.
So, all that was about Death. Phew! As for the other characters in the story, I’ll briefly talk about what was most memorable to me about them.
Liesel – She has quite a bit of strength in her, maybe because of just spunk and/or recklessness from being a young girl, like how she totally kicked the taunting boy where it counted. However, there was also that conviction she had about hating Hilter, that frankness when she said Max isn’t dead yet, that steadiness she had when she read during the raids, that courage when she reached out to Max when he was being marched with the other Jews, and the true strength at the end of the novel when her world ended, and she found her foster parents. I liked her.
Hans – Hans was almost a minor/background character, but it is very clear that he cares about Liesel the most. When he slapped her across the face to impress upon her to never ever say she hated Hitler in public again, that has got to be tough on him. But he did it anyway, to protect her. He agreed with her, but he had to make sure she never makes that mistake, or it will be the end of her. I think it’s what you have to do as a parent sometimes.
Rudy – Ah, Rudy. “Poor Rudy,” as Death has said. He was just so steadfast in his belief that maybe one day he will get a kiss from Liesel. Just a shame and wish he had gotten it after all that time.
Max – I really like Max as a character, and sometimes I forget that he was a fighter in the past because of how helpless his situation is. Max knows “how it is” as he said when he had to stay behind at the house when the raids were going on. The truly tragic part was that he not only was most likely to die, but he would die alone. And how he told the Hubermanns, “You’ve done enough,” that stirred a lot of things. How he was captured and how Liesel reached out to him… and how he came back in the end to find her. I’m glad that he made it. Real glad.
Now finally, I mentioned that characters were my top reasons to enjoy a book, but I can’t forget about the plot. The plot here is something that is different than many perspectives that we have of the Holocaust, how we tend to read about a Jewish POV and following that person. It was very intriguing and appealing to read about a family who was not completely sympathetic to Hitler and was hiding a Jew and what they had to go through. A new way to look at it definitely. Just awesome. Thank you, Mr. Zusak.
So, that is it for my Book Experience on The Book Thief. If you have your own Book Experience on it, I’d love to hear about it!
Thanks for reading. Until next time, take care!