BY DAKSHITA NAITHANI
It’s the year 1939 Germany during the Nazi era. The country is gasping for air. Death has never been busier, and it will continue to be so.
Marcus Zusak’s gripping debut novel tells the storey of Liesel, who sees her younger brother’s death while travelling through Germany on a locomotive. Liesel clutches a volume she finds concealed in the snow while standing at her brother’s grave, regardless of the fact that she has yet to learn to read. When Liesel is placed with a foster family on Himmel Street, she quickly settles into a happy but impoverished life. The risks, however, are raised tremendously when news of the inevitable war and Hitler’s impact on Germany and the Jewish race reaches Liesel and her foster family, posing a significant threat to the family because they take on a Jewish soldier and hide them in their home as an act of honour for an old friend. Soon, Liesel, her family, and her friends on Himmel Street are pushed into the adversities that only war can bring, experiencing devastation and misery but ultimately making memories that will help them survive Nazi Germany’s challenges.
The importance of the plot was one of the reasons why this work was able to accomplish all of the aforementioned goals. I discovered that allowing readers to explore Liesel’s romance through words provides a significant reprieve from the war-focused storey, giving us glimpses of the carnage while deflecting skillfully with other crucial plot points, such as the relationships between the children on Himmel Street, Liesel’s tense relationship with her foster mother, or Liesel’s infatuation with stories and words. Zusak achieves a nice medium in between dark, tortured horror thriller and the study of youth and Liesel’s coming-of-age storyline by doing so. Thereby, Zusack guarantees that ‘The Book Thief’ transcends a single genre, offering readers who enjoy a variety of reading styles a sample of a novel from every perspective.
I was taken aback when I first opened this book and saw that Liesel was not the narrator. I wasn’t sure how attached I would feel to the protagonist’s rise and fall in Nazi Germany without hearing it directly from her. I realized how important it was having Death as the narrator which only enhanced my love for the work tenfold. Death provided a genuine insight into the impact of war on society, giving readers a look into the tragedies that may rip men, women, and children apart. One of the hallmarks of a great novel is how it makes the reader think about a particular topic, and I can confidently say that not only did Zusak give an opinion on the insufficient disparity between social classes and demographics, but he also managed to give voice to something that–in our lives–will never be given a chance to speak, much like the oppressed people who were suppressed during Adolf Hitler’s reign.
This book was quite eye-opening for me. It is among the first novels about the war that I have read that is written from the perspective of someone who lives in Germany. It makes you realise that so many people in Germany suffered as a result of the war, and that they weren’t all as bad as they are frequently depicted. The grief surrounding Liesel’s narrative sneaks up on you until you realise how common it was and continues to be for so many others.
Overall, I found this to be one of the most pleasant and powerful novels I have ever read. All authors aim to strike all of the correct notes in their novels, but it’s uncommon for an author to nail every single stride on the first try. The narrative gives the storey an unusual viewpoint. Death says a lot of things that are intellectual and even beautiful.
In some respects, The Book Thief leaves you with a feeling of guilt when you think about it. Because it is British bombs that fall on Germany, and it is British bombs that murder so many people in the narrative, leaving the reader’s cheeks wet in tears.