Wednesday, 19 March 2014

The Book Thief: A review

After reading The Book Thief I've noticed that I, too, am haunted by words. They follow me. I edit them at work, I read them at home and I write them in secret places. Haunted may not be the word as it connotes a negative influence so I like to think of being overwhelmed by words, in awe of them even. It's as if there are too many words for one human.

Some adults are childlike when reading; we get obsessed with the reality of it. I read the last half of The Book Thief in two evenings. It's a quick read due to the chapter progression and fast pace. I actually burst into tears at one point. Books that make me swell in my stomach or give me that overriding feeling of being completely emerged are the ones I want to read over and over. It doesn't happen often but when you get that sort of book, you'll know what I mean. That's what we're doing as adult readers; we're on the hunt for that feeling of 'yeah, this is epic' or 'yep, this is the one'. I could compare it to a split second of love. That's why we're all hooked.

I was expecting Liesel to turn into a influential speaker at the end: a powerful force in Nazi-Germany's history. Even if a book is fiction, I still like to believe that the characters are built on reality. A story has to be believable and to me, this one was. Liesel has to be a character who changed the world slightly, not entirely. I was half-expecting Liesel to fight off Hitler single handedly (like Max imagines down in the basement), but she didn't. She did more than that. She saved her life by writing. Words saved her life. They literally sheltered her from harm.

With Death being the narrator, it added an edge. It showed the true horror of war, the true pain of dying, but it also changed the image I have of death. I know Death as the hooded character from many Hallowe'en costumes, and he is the object of nightmares, but he's never had a personality. He's never had a voice. By giving Death life, Zusak has created hope to the suffering. Light souls being lifted by Death is what people are scared of. He's tried to take the shock out of life by giving us hope in Death. A very clever move, Mr. Zusak.

On a more personal level, by reading Leisel's journey, it's helped me to understand my own expectations. I've grown up thinking I'll save the world somehow. But I've never known how. Liesel has reminded me that it's the little things in life are what it's all about. It's about savouring acts of kindness. It's about appreciating the water and food we have so readily available. All my other worries then seem to be not so important anymore. I constantly think what I'm doing isn't enough, that I'm always striving for ways of being better. I've learnt there's no need to strive so hard and put all this pressure on myself. I'll get there in the end. Everyone saves the world, even if it's just a tiny bit at a time.

On a separate note, spring seems to be bringing a strange mood into the Preston household. I think it's the sign of old flowers dying and new buds opening. It is the time of change and growth. It feels strange but great; like a new world is opening.

ZP x

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