The Book Thief: Taking Back What’s Been Lost

Courtesy of 20th Century Fox Film

By Mary Grace Richardson, Staff Writer

If you were to take a lot of Lemony Snicket, a handful of the Harry Potter series, a dash of “Mein Kampf,” and madly mix them together, what you’d get is the next book choice for the Thunderbird literary club Between the Covers. We’re headfirst The Book Thief by Australian author Markus Zusak.

Set in Nazi Germany, the story follows Liesel, an abandoned blonde Christian girl, and Max, a 24-year-old Jewish boxer, and each of their very different but very trying experiences in struggling to survive. Just as Liesel steals books to get even, to track her experience, and to perhaps escape her reality, this novel is a reminder that through language, we too can take back what’s been robbed of us. In The Book Thief, we can experience innocence again, childhood friendship, the thrills of doing something that maybe we shouldn’t. But be prepared, for all of this is told with the ominous voice of Death. Things are not always as they appear, and Liesel loses more than most of us.

The Book Thief shows us a lesson that we don’t expect—that the battle to live one more day is not always a sign of unassailable strength, but rather, a very real and very human weakness. As New York Times book reviewer John Green describes, “This is fighting as ‘The Book Thief’ understands it: winners often lose. Indeed, everything is upside down in Zusak’s Nazi Germany. Sounds are tasted, visions are heard, death has a heart, the strong do not survive, and your best chance of living may be a concentration camp.”

We see this struggle in all its intricate density. Without ever refuting the fundamental immorality and uncertainty in this world, The Book Thief shares with us a hope that can only be seen in people who experience war and poverty—the same kind of hope that comes from violence and suffering. It’s unfathomable but impenetrable.

Between the Covers will have its next meeting to discuss the first half of the book Friday, Nov. 4 at 4pm on the second floor of the Tower. Come and learn how to become a person that even Death can love.

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