Friday, 7 February 2014

The Book Thief - Thoughts on the Book

      With its recent presentation on the big screen The Book Thief has become increasingly popular over the past month and after having just finished reading the book yesterday I can't say that this is a bad thing. But to get things started here's a bit of background on the book...

The Book Thief

Markus Zusak
Published by Knopf in 2005

Back of the Book:

       It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.

       Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can't resist-books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement. 

My Thoughts

       The only word which I can gather to describe this book is, superb. From being to end, the plot, the attention to detail, the characterization, the historical nature and the emotional depth of the book were simply superb. I personally loved how the narrator was the grim reaper or death, I found the morbid anecdotes and dry commentary, on what I guess could ironically be called life as death, enhanced the dimensions of the story. By this I mean that rather than seeing and understanding the story solely through the eyes of Liesel and the immediate knowledge of the other characters, death helps to contextualize the story by weaving it into the greater horrors which Nazi Germany spread across the globe in the Second World War. Another point I found especially refreshing was that the story was placed in Germany, and told from the perspectives of mainly German characters who weren't born Jews. 

        Given the horrors that the Nazis committed in the Second World War during the Shoah or Holocaust, it is both reasonable and compassionate that most of the fictional literary pieces are told from the perspectives of the victims to ensure that their side of the story is not only heard but never forgotten. I think however that the Shoah needs to be examined from all perspectives, not all Germans were monsters or willingly joined the Nazi party, yet the horrors of the Holocaust still occurred. Without understanding what the ordinary German citizen experienced it is impossible to fully comprehend or prevent such terror from occurring again. 

      It is upon this basis that I found it refreshing to read a novel which took place during the Holocaust from the perspective of a German girl, her family and her friends. Though the story was fictional, it was nice to be reminded that though Nazism enveloped Germany in obsession, there were those who resisted the movement. It is important to be reminded that not all Germans were Nazi supporters and monsters because by making such a grand generalization it is too easy to right off the Holocaust as something that could never happen again. However by acknowledging that during the Second World War Germans were humans just like us, we are brought into the continual if subconscious vigilance needed to remind us that if we blindly follow the philosophies of leaders the Shoah could most certainly happen again, as Death astutely observed in The Book Thief, it was after all, Hitler's use of ideology and words that won him the control of Germany's mind. 

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