I’m in that strange period of time right now, having just finished The Book Thief, feeling both exhausted and hopeful. I feel just like the soul collector who, after rescuing Liesel Meminger’s story, wants to know “how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant.”
The Book Thief is a truly original and moving story of a young Liesel Meminger, whose mother, at the outset of World War II, gives up her daughter to a foster family outside Munich, Germany. Stunned, Liesel suffers this loss and slowly, in the smallest of steps, rises to periods of love and happiness, through a foster love that is initially unrecognizable, but deep, through her neighbor friend Rudy Steiner, through words and books, and through a painfully happy connection with Max Vandenburg, a German Jew who is hiding in her family’s basement.
It’s the relationships in this story that give you hope. It’s how they build and become something you know is stronger than the hatred and the loss. These are the things that help you make sense of a time when one man used words to almost destroy an entire population of innocent people.
I don’t know what to say that properly presents The Book Thief to you. If you’re a high school student and this book is on your reading list, pick it, even if the title doesn’t grab you. If you are like me and are just getting to this book, nearly nine years since it was published, read it before the others on your stack. If you are tempted to see the movie first, read the book first. I have not seen the movie yet, but the books are always better first. We all know that.
I will tell you what I like so much about The Book Thief, besides the way the author has made me feel both so happy and sad at the very same time.
1) The relationship between Liesel and Hans Hubermann is like no other.
2) The relationship between Liesel and Max Vandenburg is like no other.
3) The relationship between Liesel and Rudy Steiner is like no other.
You get the idea.
This book is like no other.
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