World of Words Wednesday – The Book Thief.. and Wednesday Memes.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak: How do you review a book that made you smile, made you cry, made you marvel at the human spirit? I guess it is going to be tough but here is my attempt at it anyways.
‘The Book Thief’ by Markus Zusak is labelled as YA – well, this is definitely also for adults and for anyone who loves books. It took me forever to get to reading this book but once I started I could not stop reading, and when I was done, I wanted to keep reading it. While ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ gives you a sense of how the Jews fared during this horrible time, this story is about how little German girls and their families fared in Nazi Germany. Could they voice their opinions? What would happen if they did? These and many other questions find their answers in the book in Zusak’s powerful and beautiful words. Zusak’s description of people, of the sky, of the war are all going to stay with me for a long time.
The story: ‘The Book Thief’ follows four years of Liesel Meminger’s life as she arrives at the doorstep of her foster parents after a close encounter with Death as he comes to take her little brother on their way to Himmel(Heaven) Street where the Hubermans (the foster parents) live. Narrated by Death himself, Liesel’s life as a book thief starts at the beginning when she steals her first book, ‘The Gravedigger’s Handbook’ at her brother’s funeral. Death, being Death, and Liesel being in Nazi Germany cross paths multiple times in the book. Learning the power of words courtesy of her wonderful new dad, Hans Huberman, using the not so appropriate first stolen book, she goes on to ‘acquire’ more books with her best friend and partner in crime, Rudy Steiner – a boy with “hair the colour of lemons” who idolises the black Olympic champion sprinter Jesse Owens. When Max Vandenburg, a Jew, comes to hide in their basement, the Hubermans prove many times over that the human values of kindness, love, compassion and sheer strength of spirit exist. Max’s arrival means a major change in the course of Liesel’s life. Death’s narration of the story brings in a ‘fresh’ perspective of Nazi Germany.
The book thief character summaries:
The characters: I cannot decide whom to love more in this book – Liesel, Hans, Rudy, Max, Rosa, or even Death himself! Other secondary characters are also portrayed strongly and very well in this book. Death is almost human in this book – he comes to care, he stomps, he holds souls gently in his hand. Liesel and Rudy’s (along with other friends) ability to enjoy the small pleasures of childhood (playing soccer on the street, sharing stolen apples) they are granted in the midst of the war and the human spirit that shines through the characters (even Death) keeps this book from being totally depressing.

If I had to give a rating for this book, it would have been off the charts!

Now let me let the book do the talking – some quotes from the book:

  1. “Snowflakes of ash fell so lovelily you were tempted to stretch out your tongue to catch them, taste them. Only, they would have scorched your lips. They would have cooked your mouth.”
  2. “In Liesel’s mind, the moon was sewn into the sky that night. Clouds were stitched around it.”
  3. “Trust me, though, the words were on their way, and when they arrived, Liesel would hold them in her hands like the clouds, and she would wring them out like the rain.”
  4. “The orange flames waved at the crowd as paper and print dissolved inside them. Burning words were torn from their sentences.”
  5. “Eleven-year-old paranoia was powerful. Eleven-year-old relief was euphoric.”
  6. “Before they proceeded to their respective homes, Rudy’s voice reached over and handed Liesel the truth. For a while, it sat on her shoulder, but a few thoughts later, it made its way to her ear.”
  7. “They say that war is death’s best friend, but I must offer you a different point of view on that one. To me, war is like the new boss who expects the impossible. He stands over your shoulder repeating one thing, incessantly: “Get it done, get it done.” So you work harder. You get the job done. The boss, however, does not thank you. He asks for more.”
  8. “Some of them closed their eyes, waiting for their final demise, or hoping for a sign that the raid was finally over. Did they deserve any better, these people? How many had actively persecuted others, high on the scent of Hitler’s gaze, repeating his sentences, his paragraphs, his opus? Was Rosa Hubermann responsible? The hider of a Jew? Or Hans? Did they all deserve to die? The children? The answer to each of these questions interests me very much, though I cannot allow them to seduce me. I only know that all of those people would have sensed me that night, excluding the youngest of the children. I was the suggestion. I was the advice, my imagined feet walking into the kitchen and down the corridor.”
  9. ““The sky is blue today, Max, and there is a big long cloud, and it’s stretched out, like a rope. At the end of it, the sun is like a yellow hole ….” Max, at that moment, knew that only a child could have given him a weather report like that.”
  10. ” “When everything was quiet, I went up to the corridor and the curtain in the living room was open just a crack …. I could see outside. I watched, only for a few seconds.” He had not seen the outside world for twenty-two months. There was no anger or reproach. It was Papa who spoke. “How did it look?” Max lifted his head, with great sorrow and great astonishment. “There were stars,” he said. “They burned my eyes.””

Wondrous Words Wednesday: 
Kathy over at Bermudaonion’s Weblog hosts Wondrous Words Wednesday.
If you come across a word (or two) while reading that is new to
you and would like to share your new knowledge, then hop over to
Kathy’s place and link up!

  1. she·moz·zle (also sche·moz·zle) n. INFORMAL a state of chaos and confusion; a muddle. late 19th cent.: Yiddish, suggested by late Hebrew ‘of no luck’.“They had a minute to come up with a plan. A shemozzle of thoughts.”
  2. spuck – for speak  “She never neglected to spuck on the door of number thirty-three and say, “Schweine!” each time she walked past. One thing I’ve noticed about the Germans: They seem very fond of pigs. “
  3. pol·i·tesse n. formal politeness or etiquette. early 18th cent.: French, from Italian politezza, pulitezza, from pulito ‘polite’.
  4. Apophenia is the experience of seeing meaningful patterns or connections in random or meaningless data.   “With regards to the 11:11 phenomenon, rather than being a supernatural warning sign, psychologists say it is a classic case of “apophenia,” or the human tendency to find meaning or patterns in randomly occurring data. This condition feeds on itself, because the more conscious you are of something — such as repeating 11s — the more often you’ll notice it in the world around you, and thus the more certain you’ll become that the pattern is real.”

10 thoughts on “World of Words Wednesday – The Book Thief.. and Wednesday Memes.

  1. Reading your review brought tears to my eyes because I, too, loved this book beyond words. It portrayed such tenderness and humanity I have yet to come across in any other book. In my review this past summer I think I said something about how the author really *gets* compassion. He gets it and I love that. My favorite relationship was between the Mayor's wife and Liesel. There was every reason for that relationship not to work, but it did, quietly, gradually . . . it worked. I loved the author for making that happen.

  2. I read The Book Thief 3 or 4 years ago, it really is Sensational! Parts of it do stay with you. Having death be the narrator is just genius. I love your words today. I can highly recommend schmozzle. I'm not sure why a Yiddish word should be quite commonplace in Australia, but this one is. Probably why it's in the book as Marcus Zusak is Australian too. You can loudly exclaim "what a schmozzle", or "this place is a schmozzle". Very satisfying. Politesse I knew too. Apophenia is new to me, but it's one that I'd really like to remember and take on board.

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