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Book Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

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The Book ThiefThe Book Thief by Markus Zusak

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first time I saw this book was on the website of Oprah Winfery’ book club two years ago. I didn’t read the book then because I was a bit unsure about reading such a heavy and sad story. But deep in my mind, I know I will read it one day, just wait until the time is right.

Ever since then, the book seems to follow me, whenever I walked into a bookstore, I can always see this book sitting on the shelf beckoning to me. But, I was not ready. Until recently, 2 month ago, I was browsing books on Goodreads, The book thief jumped out again, with 399408 ratings and 49585 reviews, I was really impressed. So I decide it is time for me to read this book. 

I got an audio book along with a hard copy from local library and started my reading journey. By the way, Dennis Olsen is the narrator. He is fantastic, beautiful voice!

This is a book about Nazi Germany and World War II. There are a lot of story from the war and this one really stands out for its simplicity and less commonly explored perspective of German folks, a group of poor people living below the poverty line. The story touches another side of the war, how the war has affected German ordinary people and changed their life forever. It is centred around a 9 year old German girl called Liesel Meminger, her foster parents and their neighbours living on the Himmel street in Molching of Munich.

It took me a while to realise that this story is told by Death, Grim Reaper. Grim Reaper describes what he saw and what he thought in a calm manner, completely detached, how he collects souls, (it doesn’t matter if it is a German soul or Nazi soul or Jewish soul, it is a human being soul) and how the sky looks like on different battlefield. At first it seems that the author tries to brush over the seriousness of the situation, after several chapters, I realised that by taking this unique approach, the author tries to say that War is a man-made disaster, all human being are victims. This might be arguable, and may greatly displease a lot of people.

However, reading this book reminds me of a conversation I had years ago with a friend coming from Poland. We talked about Japaness to Chinese vs German to Polish. She tried to persuade me to let go of the deep hatred I feel towards Japaness. She tried to make the point that Japaness is not equal to Japaness militarism, just like German is not equal to Nazi Germany. After a long debate, I told her, I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. Not because what Japaness had done was worse then German, but because the Japaness never apologise for their crime. So when I read this book, I imagine what if this is a story about a Japaness girl, and her foster parents, how would I feel? Would I like this book or hate this book? I couldn’t answer this question. Even when I have finished this book, I still couldn’t answer this question.

But I enjoyed the story; I was deeply moved by Liesel and her papa, mama, their effort trying to save Max, a Jew; I feel sorry for Rudy, how much he wanted a kiss from Liesel, only got it after he was dead. This book made me laugh and cry. I gave four stars to this book, because it really got me thinking.

If nothing else, at least this book will help Nazi Germany to see what their own folks have been suffering due to their insanity.

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