Sunday, 19 January 2014

Markus Zusak : THE BOOK THIEF

THE BOOK THIEF is a bestselling novel, which took the world by storm, written by Markus Zusak. Zusak wrote this incredible masterpiece not realising what an influence it will have on its readers. 

"A weighty novel worthy of universal acclaim… The story of the Book Thief, who tried to change the world in her own small way, proves one formidable and inspiring distraction. " DAILY EXPRESS

"A magical tale." ELLE

"His faith in the transformative power of story-telling bestows this gentle, worthwhile novel with its own narrative strength and power. " METRO

"Unsettling, thought-provoking, life affirming, triumphant and tragic, this is a novel of breath-taking scope, masterfully told. An important piece of work, but also a wonderful page-turner. " GUARDIAN

"A moving work which will make many eyes brim." INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY

The story follows the life of Liesel Meminger. A German girl living in the part of Nazi Munich - Molching on the verge of Hitler coming to power. She has been put into foster care and had to move to Himmel Street. Her new adoptive parents - Rosa & Hans Hubermann - are good people. Not rich, they can barely get by. But Hans and Liesel develop a wonderful relationship of father and daughter. A love for books and reading brings them together. Liesel also builds a new friendship with local hero aka Jesse Owens aka Rudy Steiner. Together they get up to various mischiefs. And then the unthinkable happens. A Jewish fist-fighter, a son of Hans' friend from previous war, arrives at the doorstep of Number 33. He is desperate for a shelter.  Max Vanderburg. Liesel is firstly afraid of this young man. As a German child she has been brought up with the idea that Jewish people are evil parasites. But slowly, these two people from opposite sides develop a beautiful friendship which will save them both. They discover the power of words and how much they understand each other in ways that no one else can. 

Narrated by a surprising narrator - The Death itself. What an amazing new way to write a book! We all are petrified of dying, so when a story is told by Death, it is new, refreshing and put into a new perspective. We all always wonder what the Death thinks about its everyday job. And now we have a perfect opportunity to get a glimpse into its thoughts. 

I love the way the book is written. Not only because it is told by Death, but Death also supplies us with its own little post-it notes in the story. We can get every detail required. What an idea!! Such an interesting and smart way of writing.  

The novel is divided into 12 parts: PROLOGUE -A MOUNTAIN RANGE OF RUBBLE, THE GRAVEDIGGER'S HANDBOOK, THE SHOULDER SHRUG, MEIN KAMPF, THE STANDOVER MAN, THE WHISTLER, THE DREAM CARRIER, THE COMPLETE DUDEN DICTIONARY AND THESAURUS, THE WORD SHAKER, THE LAST HUMAN STRANGER, THE BOOK THIEF, EPILOGUE - THE LAST COLOUR. And then it is split into chapters. What I also like is that Death gives us a brief summary of what to expect in each part. This is very much approved by myself. This book is managing to surprise with turn of every page. 

The story itself is beautiful. I found myself falling in love with it slowly and deeply. This story has changed me… it alternate the ways I look at the life… the past… the present.. the future. It opened my eyes. I have learnt to appreciate every little moment of happiness as you never know how long it will last. 

This book is astonishingly wonderful. A sad and heart-breaking portray of life in Nazi Germany under the power of Hitler himself. It is a story without happy ending… a story of love, friendship and survival. And the importance of WORDS, LOVE FOR BOOKS & READING. It's inspiring.  

Warning! This novel will make you cry. Not only once! That is a guarantee I can promise you, unless you don't have a heart and your soul is pitch black. 

I have developed very strong feelings for the characters in this story. All of them. There isn't one protagonist I wouldn't find a little bit of love for… Starting with HANS HUBERMANN. Hans is one of the most inspiring, strong, kind, beautifully written fictional characters. A kind man with a light should and an accordion. He sticks to his promises and never lets you down. His wife ROSA is like an onion. You keep on discovering various layers of her personality which she tries to keep hidden from others. She is hard on the surface, but loving and kind-hearted woman inside. She is like a melt in the middle pud from Marks&Spencer. RUDY STEINER. A best friend who is always there for you no matter what. If you are up to some mischief, you can count on him to support you and get into trouble with you. But he has a sweet warm heart and huge amount of strength. He loves Liesel and doesn't give up on trying to get a kiss from her. 

MAX. Max is just wonderful. A Jewish man who has been through hell and back. The whole nation hated him. but he is beautiful. His soul is kind and generous and he always looks at the beauty in the world. He is brave, smart and wears his heart of his sleeve. 

And let's not forget the main character LIESEL. Finally, a strong leading female character who you can look up to. Yes, she steals books, but only as a payback for the bad things which have happened to her. And then she shares the words and stories with others. Her strength and love for the people around her is just  an example for inspiration. 

And I cannot describe with words how much I love the relationship which was slowly developing between Liesel and Max. It was so sweet. They both have been through so many challenging sad events in their lives, they both lost their loved ones.. but they found something in common and they both saved each other. They both learned something from one another. I have routed for Max & Liesel. They are true soul mates for me. The connection they share is so visible to me and I hope that Max ended up marrying Liesel and he is the husband mentioned at the end. They both deserved true happiness after what they have been through and it's only logical that they found it amongst each other. Although Mr Zusak mentioned that he went for the brotherly kind of relationship between them, I think that he unintentionally created soul mates and a relationship which develops in the big L.O.V.E. I don't think Rudy was Liesel's love. I agree that she loved him, he even might have been her first love, but I truly believe that Max was her ONE TRUE LOVE. And I am not the only one. The thought of the relationship between Max & Liesel and its open ending inspired many fans of this story to write fan-fictions which I made sure to read. And some of them are incredible.  Just with the right ending you are after. 

The first time I cried when reading this book was, when Max made and gave Liesel his first book THE STANDOVER MAN. Hand-made and re-created from Mein Kampf - it was the most thoughtful gift. He gave her his soul. Tears were pouring down my face. He gave her the gift of words. 

The second time I cried was when the Jewish people marched through Molching and Liesel found Max amongst them. Such a sad, sad scene. She didn't want to loose him. She wanted to give him some strength to survive the place, where-ever he was going to. And she wanted to let him know how important he is to her and that she will be waiting for him. The way the conversation flew from his book given to her - THE WORD SHAKER- from the story written for her about their relationship - was heart-shattering. 

I have appreciated that Mr Zusak also included the hand-drawn pictures and books which Max made for Liesel. It was such a great addition to the story. It made the story and the book a true original. The illustrations have now become a well-known pictures known to every single fan of this story. 

I have not found one fault with this novel or writing. It simply gets under your skin and won't let go. And you will realise that this is one of those stories which you will remember forever. It will stay with you. It will shape you and it will change you. There are books… and there are BOOKS. This is one of THE BOOKS. A heart-breaking, inspiring, touchily beautiful, heart-shattering, eye-opening story… I haven't read a story like this one before. Markus Zusak wrote a masterpiece which will change the world. 

I am really looking forward to the film adaptation. The trailer is just wonderful. And if the film is  half as good as the trailer, we are in for a treat. I will make sure to share with you my thoughts once I see it. The film premieres in UK on January 31st 2014. If you get the chance, make sure to watch it. 

Well done Mr Zusak, you got yourself a loyal fan. 

Here are some quotes from the book which will stick with you for quite some time: 

“I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race - that rarely do I even simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant...I AM HAUNTED BY HUMANS.”

“When death captures me," the boy vowed, "he will feel my fist in his face."

“I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.”

“Like most misery, it started with apparent happiness.” 

“Even death has a heart.” 

“His soul sat up. It met me. Those kinds of souls always do - the best ones. The ones who rise up and say "I know who you are and I am ready. Not that I want to go, of course, but I will come." Those souls are always light because more of them have been put out. More of them have already found their way to other places.” 

“One was a book thief. The other stole the sky.” 

“The words. Why did they have to exist? Without them, there wouldn't be any of this.”

“Of course, I'm being rude. I'm spoiling the ending, not only of the entire book, but of this particular piece of it. I have given you two events in advance, because I don't have much interest in building mystery. Mystery bores me. It chores me. I know what happens and so do you. It's the machinations that wheel us there that aggravate, perplex, interest, and astound me. There are many things to think of. There is much story.”

“I like that every page in every book can have a gem on it. It's probably what I love most about writing--that words can be used in a way that's like a child playing in a sandpit, rearranging things, swapping them around. They're the best moments in a day of writing -- when an image appears that you didn't know would be there when you started work in the morning.”

“The best word shakers were the ones who understood the true power of words. They were the ones who could climb the highest. One such word shaker was a small, skinny girl. She was renowned as the best word shaker of her region because she knew how powerless a person could be WITHOUT words.”

“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. . .” 

“The Standover Man. all my life, I've been scared of men standing over me. I suppose my first standover man was my father, but he vanished before I could remember him. For some reason when I was a boy, I liked to fight. a lot of the time, I lost. Another boy, sometimes with blood falling from his nose, would be standing over me. Many years later, I needed to hide. I tried not to sleep because I as afraid of who might be there when I woke up. But I was lucky. It was always my friend.When I was hiding. I dreamed of a certain man. The hardest was when I traveled to find him. Out of sheer luck and many footsteps, I made it. I slept there for a long time. Three days, they told me...and what did I find when I woke up? Not a man, but someone else standing over me. As time passed by the girl and I realized we had things in common. But there is one strange thing. The girl says I look like something else. Now I live in a basement. Bad dreams still live in my sleep. One night, after my usual nightmare, a shadow stood above me. She said, "Tell me what you dream of." So I did. In return, she explained what her own dreams were made of. Now I think we are friends, this girl and me. It was she who gave me a gift - to me. It makes me understand that the best standover man I've ever known is not a man at all…” 

“She gave 'The Dream Carrier' to Max as if words alone could nourish him.”

“She walked down the basement steps. She saw an imaginary framed photo seep into the wall - a quiet-smiled secret. No more than a few meters, it was a long walk to the drop sheets and the assortment of paint cans that shielded Max Vandenburg. She removed the sheets closest to the wall until there was a small corridor to look through. The first part of him she saw was his shoulder, and through the slender gap, she slowly, painfully, inched her hand in until it rested there. His clothing was cool. He did not wake.
She could feel his breathing and his shoulder moving up and down ever so slightly. For a while, she watched him. Then she sat and leaned back.
Sleepy air seemed to have followed her.
The scrawled words of practice stood magnificently on the wall by the stairs, jagged and childlike and sweet. They looked on as both the hidden Jew and the girl slept, hand to shoulder.
They breathed.
German and Jewish lungs.” 

Often I wish this would all 
be over, Liesel, but then somehow you do something like walk down the basement steps with a snowman in your hands. ”

“I guess humans like to watch a little destruction. Sandcastles, houses of cards, that's where they begin. Their great skill is their capacity to escalate”

“His hair is like feathers.”

“The juggling comes to an end now, but the struggling does not. I have Liesel Meminger in one hand, Max Vandenburg in the other. Soon I will clap them together. Just give me a few pages.” 

“Do you still play the accordion?”

“The stars set fire to my eyes.”

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