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The Book Thief

It’s all those buzz words that publishers and reviewers (and authors) love. Powerful and compelling. By equal measures dark and delightful. Original. Extraordinary. Exquisite.

I loved it because I loved Liesel. Because Liesel is me – the delight of books and words has a worth far beyond even risking one’s own life. Because Liesel is everything I’ve always wanted to be.

‘Don’t punish yourself,’ she heard her say again, but there would be punishment and pain, and there would be happiness, too. That was writing.

More than Liesel’s obsession with books and the agony and joy she finds in writing, is death. Death is the narrator, death is the constant, death pervades every page. I think that’s why, even though I adored the book, I physically struggled to pick it up every night. Because there was death, in every chapter, breathing the words in my ear, simultaneously apologizing for and relishing his own presence. So I knew the end from the beginning. I knew that all the joy was short lived, that all the happiness would fade. How could it now, with death narrating? He is the ultimate end.

And yet, as gutwrenching as the deaths were, they were so beautiful. The description was so eloquent, that I felt death’s despondent capitulation to his job and the inevitable facts of human existence. He loves and is tormented by humanity.

It kills me sometimes, how people die.

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. … He lay in my arms and rested.”

I am haunted by humans

I could almost fall in love with death. I had never before felt sorry for him, but what a time to do such a job, in World War Two. A body collector. A soul carrier. A sorter of the unfortunates, a reciever of the unlucky.

In fact, I perhaps like death more than I like Liesel.

I loved the Mayor’s wife’s library.

I loved the way death saw everything in colours.

I loved Rudy, running, always looking back at Liesel

I love Hans’ silver eyes

I loved how Max painted over Mein Kampf and made it into a new story

I loved and hated how Markus Zusak managed to reopen the wound of the holocaust for me, so that six million was not just a fact in a history book, but a world full of souls that death collected and carried away from their stupid, horrendous, grotesque persecution.

I am haunted by humans.

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About writehandedgirl

Sarah is a writer who is passionate about social justice, feminism, politics, and cats. She is a columnist and poet and currently lives in Nelson. You can follow Sarah on Twitter (@_writehanded_) or read more of her writing at writehanded.org

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