I read The Hunger Games Trilogy in the same month as The Book Thief. I planned on reading the latter, not the former, and for a moment I thought I blew it. After The Hunger Games, I didn’t know if I could handle another book on death, dying, and children. In a panic, I read something fluffy before reading about the Führer. I can’t remember what I read, so I suppose that means it did its job.
I shouldn’t have worried, at least not too much. Collins and Zusak both write about a world gone to hell, but they sit on opposite sides of the battlefield. While The Hunger Games decries the destruction of the masses and points at broken pieces left behind, The Book Thief affirms the humanity of the individual and uncovers pockets of beauty and normalcy among the rubble. To paraphrase Death, I like that.
I like that while bombs loom overhead, people listen to murder mysteries down below.
I like that during a time of hate, a little girl learns to love.
I like that the narration is like war. The surprise is not in the outcome, but in the timing. We all have the same ending.
I like that we can’t stop being human, even when we try, and that boys will always think of ways to kiss girls.
(Oh, Rudy. You lemon-haired saukerl. I adore you and I miss you.)
I liked all that and more about The Book Thief.
The book started slowly, waiting for me to adapt to Death as a narrator. It took me a while, about 159 pages. For most people, pages 30-40. My pacing was off. I was accustomed to stories laid out like clean towels. Easy to see, folded neatly. This was different, like hunting for matching socks in a deep drawer. They’re there, but they’ll take effort to find. Two weeks later, I reread the beginning and didn’t have the same problem. Socks on a silver platter.
I almost deleted that entire paragraph out of shame, but since I used laundry as a simile (hence, the shame) I figured I could also use it to clumsily segue into what I liked most about The Book Thief: the characters.
I loved every last one of them, even Rosa Hubermann. Especially Rosa Hubermann.
I could go on, but I won’t since I prefer to share more in the comments. What did you think of The Book Thief? Any favorites passages? I have several. Too many, really. At first I flagged the pages with writing I admired, but it became ridiculous. I faced the risk of using every last post-it in the county. I stopped at page 111, where Death contemplates heil Hiltering.
Many jocular comments followed, as did another onslaught of “heil Hitlering.” You know, it actually makes me wonder if anyone ever lost an eye or injured a hand or wrist with all of that. You’d only need to be facing the wrong way at the wrong time or standing marginally too close to another person. Perhaps people did get injured. Personally, I can only tell you that no one died from it, or at least, not physically.