The Book Thief

the-book-thiefThe Book Thief is one of my favorite books. It tells a story that takes place in Nazi Germany, a period that’s really not that far from us yet seems that way. The book starts with Liesel’s seemingly peaceful new life, and gradually builds up as the plot twists and turns, and finally ends in a poignant and saddening climax.

Liesel is a brave girl despite her timidity at times. She steals book from the most dangerous place and runs into a Jews parade to look for Max. Liesel is an epitome of so many other lives ruined by the unfortunate time. Despite all the pain in her young life, she never gave up her love for learning. One thing I’m disappointed about her is the way she treated Rudy. I wish she could’ve kissed him at least once before he died, or show some affection instead of being the stubborn girl.

Rudy, “the boy whose hair remained the color of lemons forever,” is the most innocent victim in the novel and also my favorite character. He’s a boy that would paint his face black because he wants to be like Jessie Owens, and stand in freezing water for minutes just to get a kiss from the girl he loves. Rudy’s relationship with Liesel is such typical young love—they fight, argue, yet deeply care about each other. All Rudy wanted is a kiss, but he never pushed too hard. Maybe he thought he would have more time than he actually did. I believe Liesel did love him. But in a time like this, there’s so much fear in the air and so little place for love.

I found Rosa a bit off-putting especially in the first few chapters. Imagine living with someone who’s always complaining and criticizing…Poor Papa! But her acceptance of Max is beyond kind. She’s putting herself in danger not only to keep her husband’s promise, but also because she is inherently a good person and sympathizes with Max. I wish she was more expressive with her kindheartedness, so at the end she wouldn’t “regret not sharing more of her very big heart”.

“A small but noteworthy note. I’ve seen so many young men over the years who think they’re running at other young men. They are not. They are running at me.”

The crown jewel of the book is the narration by Death. This quote puts in my mind a image of young men running fiercely towards each other, thinking they are fighting for their countries and what they were taught to believe. Yet they are merely running towards Death, with their young live ruthlessly and abruptly ended by each other. Of course it’s naïve to say that wars are simply foolish or pointless, but what is it about human nature that makes people see the need of killing each other to survive? No wonder Death says, “I am haunted by humans.”

“If only she could be so oblivious again, to feel such love without knowing it, mistaking it for laughter. ”

This is a random reference, but this quote reminds me of what Andy Bernard said in the Office, “I wish there was a way to know that you’re in ‘the good old days’ before you’ve actually left them.” I always feel like it’s a pity that childhood is the most innocent time in our lives, filled with simple joy and wonders, yet children never know that until they’ve grown out of it. Maybe Liesel just wants to go back to the days when she could run around with Rudy and eat Mama’s not-so-delicious soup. Sometimes it’s not about wanting to stay in a certain period of time, but just the chance to relive it once more, this time knowing that this will later become one of the best memories in your life.

I saw the film adaption shortly after reading the book. The movie didn’t live up to my expectation. It only scratches the surface and so much depth of the book is lost. The character Liesel is too bland compared to the lively girl in the book. But film adaptions are usually just the tip of the iceberg compared to the books. There’s so much in the Book Thief, I’d recommend everyone to read it 🙂

More of my favorite quotes:

“I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn’t already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race-that rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant.”

“How about a kiss, Saumensch?”

“Like most misery, it started with apparent happiness.”




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