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The Student News Site of Fresno Christian High School

The Feather

The Student News Site of Fresno Christian High School

The Feather

Letter to the Editor

War novel hands Death heart

Upon picking up The Book Thief, and reading the synopsis, I could not help but groan, “Not another Nazi book!” However, author Markus Zusak has managed to convert an overused subject into an innovative new novel.

The story begins with Liesel Meminger, a 10-year-old German girl, in 1939. Her younger brother dies on the way to the home of her new foster family and at his graveside, she finds a book in the snow. Upon coming across the book, she yearns to learn to read.

When she arrives in Molching, a small town outside Munich, Liesel deals with many problems such as the death of her brother, living with a strange and new family, and her inability to read.

Liesel’s suffering is healed only when her new Papa begins to teach her to read. Thus begins her lifelong love affair with words.

Slowly, Liesel begins to accept her new life. Her new family and a best friend named Rudy steady her just as her country plummets into turmoil.

The Book Thief offers a fresh perspective. Not only does it focus on the turmoil of war, a reader sympathizes with Germans. It is refreshing to see the WWII scenario through the eyes of the Germans themselves. Many often cast the blame on the nation instead of it’s corrupt leaders. Zusak paints a picture of a German family who have morals and souls.

The plot thickens when Liesel’s foster parents, repaying an army friend from WWI, agree to hide a Jew in their basement. Max arrives, starving and isolated from the outside world, in need of a friend.

Liesel and Max become very close, and throughout their relationship, she continues to steal books to quell her hunger for words and stories and to share them with Max.

By the time she is 13, Liesel’s life begins a downward spiral. Because her Papa is kind to a Jew in the street, he is recruited for the army, and Max must leave. She turns to writing about her life as solace.

Only when she loses everything does Liesel realize the true power of words. They give Hitler all his influence, but they also have the power to band people together.

So concludes this powerful 550 page novel. Yet one important characteristic has been overlooked: The Book Thief is narrated by Death.

We are introduced to the narrator as a character fascinated by humans. Death works hard to keep up with war, but he follows Liesel’s story. He oftens sees her while collecting the souls of the people around her – people she has lost.

The little girl fascinates Death because she always seems to be left behind yet she holds fast to the courage to go on.

While an image of the Grim Reaper comes to mind, the narrator becomes likable as he tells his story. As he says himself, “I am not a killer, I am a result.” He has a heart, as is demonstrated by his interest in Liesel.

This angle only adds to the charisma of The Book Thief. A 2006
New York Times Bestseller, Zusak deals with a common and somewhat morbid topic in a new and humorous way.

His storytelling voice is powerful as he deals with many themes about family, love, war and the power of a story. The plot is far from one-dimensional: relationships with her parents, Max, Rudy, the mayor’s wife and others deepen and intertwine various themes.

Due to a liberal amount of language and mature storylines, The Book Thief is not for the faint of heart. For those searching for happy-go-lucky piece read with ease, entertainment should be found elsewhere.

Reading this novel also requires some sweat and causes the reader to think. It is a true piece of literature presented in an unexpected way. The story of an average preteen girl provides much resonance of the time period.

For those who perservere, The Book Thief, a sometimes euphoric and often heart-wrenching story not easily forgotten, will gain respect among book lovers everywhere.

The Book Thief is available at Barnes and Noble for about $12. For online buying, check out Amazon.

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