Finished the book in tears.
It’s a small story, about: a girl, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. Death is recalling the story and Death will be the one to visit Liesel three times. During the second World War, Death has never been busier. People dying on both sides – the English, the Russians, the Germans sent to fight on foreign fronts and Jews.
Mass extermination is well known and all I could think of when reading this book is how could it be, that now, in the 21st century, there are people that still think that Second World War never happened and the Holocaust is a massive conspiracy. You don’t believe me? Just google it and you’ll be surprised what some people believe…
With this in mind, thread carefully into to the book and the life and adventure of Liesel as she goes to her new adoptive family on Himmel street.
As I’ve mentioned before, the book is beautiful, from the first few sentences you get a sense of synesthesia and more than anything, methaphors that mix visuals with sounds and smells and memories.
First the colors. Then the humans. That’s usually how I see things. Or at least, how I try.
The story evolves as her new foster father keeps a promise to an old friend and harbors his son, a Jew, in his basement for almost a year. His wife, Rosa, does not even argue with him and they both make Liesel promise she will keep the secret with fear of punishment.
The times were hard and you can tell it based on the pea soup they ate from week to week and the scarcity of meat on the menu. But Liesel grows up to be a bony teenager with a secret – a Jew in her basement and a thieving side. She stole her first book when she could not even read at her brother’s funeral and the second and third from the mayor’s wife.
She read the books over and over again and she even read them in the bomb shelters as she and the people on Himmel street were hiding from the attacks.
She read to the neighbor next door and it made me think what a precious gift this was – the power to imagine a new world, to escape from the current one with the aid of words. And as Liesel’s vocabulary increases, so does her world. Hitler Youth, war and constant fear put their mark on the little girl. She starts asking questions, about her mother, about where the Jews went and why they had to suffer or be called less than a human. She uses words to soothe and words to hurt – the mayor’s wife when she cancels Rosa’s washerwoman services.
The Mayor’s wife does not take offence but continues to leave letters and cookies for the book thief and in the end, she gives her a journal where she can write in.
But I am going away from the idea, Death is tender and loving towards the souls he collects in the most horrific of circumstances. But, he is delighted that although he is able to see Liesel from time to time in his work, he knows he will not be collecting her soul. That also is comforting to the reader to know this.
Death continues to comment throughout the novel on the thoughts, morals and actions of humanity. He does not have control over life and death, he just collects the souls for God and he even speaks too God saying, “I don’t understand,” and then answer’s himself with, “But, it’s not your job to.”
I definitely recommend it and if you already read it, check out the other three related articles: