Friday, 21 July 2017

#16 A bestseller

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

This story is narrated by Death. It is set in Nazi Germany. Enough said. You will definitely pay undivided attention.  

Death, has found a book called ‘The Book Thief’ in one of his many rounds of going to fetch souls. And he tells us the story he finds in that book – the story of Lisel Meminger, the one who has also written the book.

Lisel Meminger, is the foster daughter of Hans and Rosa Hubermann. She travels with her mother and six year old brother to reach the Hubermanns. Her six-year old brother dies on the way there and is buried in the snow. It is at his burial that Lisel ‘finds’ her first book The Gravedigger’s Handbook left lying in the snow by her brother's grave.

Her mother leaves her with her ‘new’ parents and is never heard of again.
It is enough to give a nine-year old nightmares for life, and it does. Lisel can’t  stop seeing her dead brother in her dreams. Unable to sleep, afraid of her dreams, she lies awake – and it is her foster father Hans Hubermann who stays up with her, helping her learn to read and playing her music on his accordion. Both he and his wife are poor Germans who are given a small allowance to keep her, but they both love Lisel and each in their own way slowly build around Lisel, a certain kind of warmth and security which she cherishes. 
She makes friends with Rudy Steiner, the boy next door, the one with “lemon-coloured hair” and the one who worships the athlete Jesse Owens, who Hitler refused to shake hands with. Rudy Steiner is a sweetheart and he will be Lisel’s constant companion, friend, admirer and would do anything for her sake.

But, things are getting worse in Nazi Germany – the signs of the times are brought home when the children are forced to be part of Hitler’s Youth Group and also participate and witness the burning of books in public. Lisel steals her second book then – from the fire itself. Her love for words and reading keeps a part of her alive especially when death, poverty, hunger and the horror of war all came to them at once. 

Then comes the day when their lives change forever, with the arrival of a Jew, Max Vandenburg at their doorstep. His father, had been a dear friend of Hans Hubermann and had even saved his life. In return he had promised his deceased wife that if ever they needed his help, he would be there for them. To his enduring honour, Hans kept the promise – he took in the 25 year old Max, his dead friend’s son and hid him in his basement. Rosa and Lisel too share this secret and keep it from everyone.

Character sketches by MissySerendipity
The story has many poignant moments – too precious for me to explain it here. It will break your heart and make it whole again. This is one book that will make you cry and laugh along with a girl who grew up in one of the most horrifying times in the history of mankind. It will make you realize what it means to be human and ironically Death will teach you how to be more in love with life than you could ever be.

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