Monday, June 20, 2016

One Year, 25 Books Overture: The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

The Book Thief is about a girl named Liesel Meminger in Nazi Germany after she was dispatched to her foster parents named Hans and Rosa Huberman who turn out to be cool. After witnessing her little brother die en route to the destination of her new life, the book follows
Liesel's journey from mistrust to becoming acclimated with her new environment. It would otherwise be rosy for Liesel except that she is in a time in history where an evil-fueled despot has risen in Germany who is bent on annihilating Jews and conquering the rest of Europe with this mindset. Since this is an unacceptable proposition for the rest of the world indeed (except Italy and Japan), Germany will just have to make do with the full assault of the allied countries against her and that is the backdrop of our book. 

Foster parents Hans and Rosa and now
Liesel live in Himmel St. (German for Heaven), Liesel makes friends with kids in the neighborhood, some adults, even the Mayor’s wife who lives at the villa on the hill, but not with the Nazi woman store owner. In my head her visage is like that of Frau's in the Austin Powers movies but without the humor. The Huberman household gives shelter to a Jew who they all protect and fall in love with and because of this, we surmise that not all Germans were willing SS members or Furor fanatics during WWII. It is this theme of hope and caritas that makes this book a gem. That, the writing and the viewpoint from whom the whole story is told. Death (himself) tells the story of the book thief and it would be apropos as this is one of the periods in history wherein he would be the busiest too, taking lives here and there and all over. Death here in this book is verbose and takes on a personality if you please.

Liesel stole books for a few reasons. At first it was by accident and complacency really, the second out of passive protest from the periodic book-burnings headed by the Nazis and the succeeding ones were because of repressed anger under the tedium of being subjugated in a hell created by a demented man and his cohorts. A moral question, since the owner of the books Liesel mostly steals from knew and accorded the act, is it still stealing? In the book, a justification for Liesel’s thefts is made with the explanation that she did not steal with greed, for example, she reads the stolen books repeatedly before she takes another one. This reminds me of that argument by a son stealing from her mother’s purse and declaring, he wasn’t stealing but merely borrowing without consent. Haha.

Not at bad read this, and it can be lighthearted even in its dark setting.

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