In the epilogue of The Book Thief, the story finally comes full circle as we learn the destiny of Liesel Meminger. Intrigued? Then itâ€™s time for Mark to finish The Book Thief.
Weâ€™ve finally made it to the end. But none of this really ends, does it?
CH. 85: DEATH AND LIESEL
It has been many years since all of that, but there is still plenty of work to do. I can promise you that the world is a factory. The sun stirs it, the humans rule it. And I remain. I carry them away.
In just a few sentences, Zusak is able to communicate how this is but one tiny chapter in a long existence of death, that despite how meaningful and important it is, it is but one thing. Death will keep moving and collecting. We will keep dying for him.
Weâ€™ve reached the moment when Death has told us everything there is to know about The Book Thief, giving us the context of the day after Liesel stopped writing it. Thereâ€™s nothing left to tell. The story is complete.
Liesel Meminger lived to a very old age, far away from Molching and the demise of Himmel Street.
She died in a suburb of Sydney. The house number was forty-five–the same as the Fieldersâ€™ shelter–and the sky was the best blue of afternoon. Like her papa, her soul was sitting up.
Weâ€™re now given the most direct (and perhaps only) reference and reminder that so much of what just happened throughout The Book Thief was real. Molching may have been imagined, and so may have many of the people, but the horrors of Nazi Germany were real. This is Markus Zusakâ€™s way of saying that Liesel represents what his grandmother went through in World War II, and since this book has scenes based on the stories she told him, this feels like his way of thanking her. Even that context aside, I canâ€™t imagine that after what happened to her, Liesel would want to stay in Germany anymore.
In her final visions, she saw her three children, her grandchildren, her husband, and the long list of lives that merged with hers. Among them, lit like lanterns, were Hans and Rosa Hubermann, her brother, and the boy whose hair remained the color of lemons forever.
Liesel, that young girl so full of words, grew up and moved away, had a family, and had a life outside the basement of 33 Himmel Street. Itâ€™s both heartbreaking and redemptive and my heart aches from thinking of either emotion.
CH. 86: WOOD IN THE AFTERNOON
There are, I must admit, two small details that, had they not been addressed, would have irked me a bit, if only because my more curious side would have always wondered about them.
My first question: Where do you go and what do you do when youâ€™ve found that your life has been bombed to pieces?
After the bombing, Liesel is taken to the police station, where the inevitable occurs:
It took three hours in the police station for the mayor and a fluffy-haired woman to show their faces. â€œEveryone says thereâ€™s a girl,â€ the lady said, â€œwho survived on Himmel Street.â€
A policeman pointed.
And I used the word â€œinevitableâ€ because there was too much that had transpired between Ilsa Hermann and Liesel for this not to be what ends up happening to her. By the end of The Book Thief, I believe that Liesel had finally grown to trust the woman in that library, that sheâ€™d done enough to keep up that wall around herself. Still, this is a tender, traumatic moment for Liesel, so, while she doesnâ€™t react the same way she did all those years ago when she was first dropped off at 33 Himmel Street, she is reticent to open up again.
The girl left her hold her hand on top of the accordion case, which sat between them.
Itâ€™s a small consolation, a gesture that she does appreciate what Frau Hermann is doing, but itâ€™s all that she will allow.
An even further sign of her growth and yet still evidence of her sorrow, Liesel doesnâ€™t close herself off stubbornly in the mayorâ€™s house, instead choosing to constantly speak, even just to herself.
For four days, she carried around the remains of Himmel Street on the carpets and floorboards of 8 Grande Strasse. She slept a lot and didnâ€™t dream, and on most occasions she was sorry to wake up. Everything disappeared when she was asleep.
Content to still refuse to shower, Liesel even attends the funerals of her family and friends wearing a dress and the dirt of the street where she lived in Molching. I believe that Liesel refused to take a shower because then sheâ€™d have to leave behind the physical evidence that Himmel Street was a place at one time, a place full of Max and her papa and mama and Rudy and the Steiners and that the filth that they all loved and cherished. She canâ€™t fathom washing that away:
There was also a rumor that later in the day, she walked fully clothed into the Amper River and said something very strange.
Something about a kiss.
Something about a Saumensch.
How many times did she have to say goodbye?
This is all a reminder of the totality of those bombs, that they wiped away everything in Lieselâ€™s life: her family, her friends, her home, that basement, everything. She realizes that even the books that kept her alive are gone:
One morning, in a renewed state of shock, she even walked back down to Himmel Street to find them, but nothing was left. There was no recovery from what happened. That would take decades; it would take a long life.
And it would take moving to Sydney, Australia, thousands of miles away from that wretched place, destroyed by the rib-cage planes.
There were two ceremonies for the Steiner family. The first was immediately upon their burial. The second was as soon as Alex Steiner made it home, when he was given leave after the bombing.
OH MY GOD. I had completely forgotton that Alex Steiner had survived, that he was the last Steiner. That horrific prophetic statement Death made so long ago now makes complete sense: By â€œsavingâ€ Rudy from that school, heâ€™d unfortunately set him on the path to his death. Crucified Christ, how could he have ever known?
That day, on the steps, Alex Steiner was sawn apart.
Liesel told him that she had kissed Rudyâ€™s lips. It embarrassed her, but she thought he might have liked to know. There were wooden teardrops and an oaky smile. In Lieselâ€™s vision, the sky I saw was gray and glossy. A silver afternoon.
Silver, the color of Hans Hubermannâ€™s eyes. Her final visions are all clouded with the thoughts of Hans Hubermann.
Hold me now, please.
CH. 87: MAX
What?!?! OH GOD, more Max???
Not yet. Death tells us that Alex reopens his tailor shop, despite that it brings him no money, and I imagine itâ€™s just to keep himself busy to avoid the horrors of knowing his family died without him. Liesel joins him. I donâ€™t know why, exactly, but I find comfort in the thought of Liesel surviving with Ilsa Hermann and Alex Steiner. Comfort in numbers.
Finally, in October 1945, a man with swampy eyes, feathers of hair, and a clean-shaven face walked into the shop. He approached the counter. â€œIs there someone here by the name of Liesel Meminger?â€
â€œYeah, sheâ€™s in the back,â€ said Alex. He was hopeful, but he wanted to be sure. â€œMay I ask who is calling on her?â€
;KAFLSDJ;LSAKDJF A;SDLKFJAS D;FKLAJSDFA;LK HE MADE IT!!!!!
Liesel came out.
They hugged and cried and fell to the floor.
Oh god, Max survived. MAX SURVIVED! Oh god, I donâ€™t even feel the need to know anything else more than this, and Iâ€™m kind of glad that Zusak doesnâ€™t elaborate. He survived. He found Liesel. Something went right. Thatâ€™s what we need to know.
CH. 88: THE HANDOVER MAN
As we reach the final chapter of The Book Thief, I was overwhelmed by the sadness of it all, that this journey had ended so tragically, yet I was so completely satisfied by it all. Thereâ€™s so much that Zusak has hinted here about the story and about our narrator that Iâ€™ll have to come to terms with, since I know they are just bits and pieces that will go unanswered. Thatâ€™s ok. Itâ€™s a complete ending, one that leaves things untied and unresolved, but thatâ€™s what this war did to Liesel Meminger. Itâ€™s the reality of it all.
The last final shock of this all is the revelation that Death takes a moment to speak with Lieselâ€™s soul after he takes her in that Sydney suburb:
When I traveled to Sydney and took Liesel away, I was finally able to do something Iâ€™d been waiting on for a long time. I put her down and we walked along Anzac avenue, near the soccer field, and I pulled a dusty black book from my pocket.
The old woman was astonished. She took it in her hand and said, â€œIs this really it?â€
I love that at the end of this, Liesel gets her book back. On top of that, sheâ€™s going to learn precisely how important it was and not just to herself. She asks Death one simple question: â€œCould you understand it?â€
This was not a question of comprehension, but one of purpose: Could Death understand what Liesel was trying to say in The Book Thief?
I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didnâ€™t already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race–that rarely do I ever 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.
But she knows this. We know this. While The Book Thief is a novel about guilt and violence, and the inherent power of words (whichever direction that power is moved), thereâ€™s a stark contrast that hangs over it all:
Humans can be evil, destructive beings. Humans can be loving, redemptive souls. And sometimes they can be both or neither.
All I was able to do was turn to Liesel Meminger and tell her the only truth I truly know. I said it to the book thief and I say it now to you.
* * * A LAST NOTE FROM YOUR NARRATOR * * *
I am haunted by humans.
A painful, unsettling reminder of the presence our narrator has in this novel. He sees all of it, and he sees the end of it.
And we haunt him.
I am truly of the perspective that when people come up to me, either in person or online, and ask me what books they should read, Iâ€™ll cycle through the same familiar titles: The Stranger. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. Crime and Punishment. Heart of Darkness. The Great Gatsby. Mercy Among The Children.
And I think that The Book Thief is going to constantly be on the tip of my tongue, maybe slipped in between Dostoevsky and Conrad, maybe right off the bat if I think the person will particularly enjoy it. I enjoyed this book, almost right from the start, and thereâ€™s not a book Iâ€™ve ever read that is quite like it. I donâ€™t want to wax poetically about the themes addressed at large, only because I feel like Iâ€™ve already discussed them to death over the past two months or so.
But I wanted to thank the few thousand of you who have been reading along with me. I knew that after I came off The Hunger Games series, Iâ€™d be taking a blow in terms of how active things were around here, but after so many of you feverishly recommended this book to me, I figured it was worth the chance to do a one-off that was completely different from anything Iâ€™d ever done.
I wanted to thank you and tell you that it was worth it. God, what a fantastic novel.
So! This week, Iâ€™ll be taking time off for a bit to work on creating e-book versions of my Twilight, Harry Potter, and Hunger Games reviews to start, hopefully having a store/download section within two weeks. I think Iâ€™ll be able to throw up a couple Harry Potter re-reads this week, but if not, never fear! Next week, I will be devoting my time solely to re-reading The Sorcererâ€™s Stone and continuing on with a few Infinite Jest posts as well, since they have been sadly neglected.
On Monday, May 23, I will begin the His Dark Materials trilogy, starting with Northern Lights / The Golden Compass. Yes, THIS IS DEFINITELY VERY QUITE EXCITING AND SUCH. Spread the word!
Again, thank you for indulging me on this brief journey. I hope you enjoyed it, too!
I read the book thanks to you, although I don't quite have the discipline to regulate myself to only read a chapter a day. I started a bit later, but read it over two days because I just had to know… however, reading your reviews made me relive the book and experience it once again. Thanks for recommending the book, for reviewing it and making me see more to the book than I would've on my own. I'm excited about His Dark Materials, keep it up.
I love the epilogue, and especially the line "I am haunted by humans." Death has seen everything, has imbibed Liesel's The Book Thief, and sees that we come in all sorts: we're complicated, innocent, terrible, selfish, generous, and wonderful. We're exhausting. We make Death work; Death exists for us. No wonder he prefers to think about colors rather than all of the souls that need to be picked up.
I also appreciated seeing that Liesel and Max survived the war. I won't say it's a happy ending, because things won't be right for a long time (a lifetime of rebuilding), but I was glad to see something go right for them.
I definitely enjoyed rereading this with you, Mark. Thanks for taking up a single book without an avid fandom to review. I think everyone should read The Book Thief, but I had no idea how you were going to cover this sort of novel. It's been fun, if not really draining, to go back through this book with you and my fellow commenters; everyone has been thoughtful, great at highlighting things I loved or didn't quite catch, and has shared a lot of fantastic and sad personal stories. I'm glad you gave The Book Thief a chance. And I'm looking forward to His Dark Materials — should be fun!
Thanks, Mark, for choosing this book and getting me to read it. I'm not sure I would have even heard of it if not for this blog.
I really liked the epilogue. It felt like as happy an ending as a story like this could have. Max survived. Liesel was able to love again and managed to build yet another family, one that last for a few generations.
This whole book was beautiful and sad and wonderful. I'm so glad I read it and I look forward to reading it again.
Mark, I'm so glad you reviewed this book. It is the best book. You are the best Mark.
YOU DID IT MARK!
Yeah, I agree, for me this book deserves a place on the shelf next to all of those classics- Zusak is a genius, no doubt about it.
I also found this book and ended up reading it because of this blog. Checking these sites has become part of my weekday routine, and I felt awkwardly left out during the first few chapters, having not read the book itself. Only weeks later did I find an old booklist I'd made a few years ago with 100 books to read, and this book was on it. I know I pulled a lot of those on my list off of "top 100" lists, and I have to heartily agree. Although I don't know if it's a book I can reread frequently, due to the MASSIVE HEARTBREAK, it's definitely a very worthwhile experience.
I'll be looking forward to your trip through His Dark Materials, because that trilogy (primarily the first book) is also in my top favorite books, and also just has a lot of material that opens up debate. I'll look forward to picking it apart and seeing if I can't find something new in it. 🙂
I am so happy "Mark Reads" did this book! I probably never would have heard of it otherwise, but it was a fantastic take on, not only Nazi Germany but humanity in general. I've mentioned before that I've read plenty of stories that paint all of human society as this awful, terrible thing and points to all of the bad things people do to each other as evidence – but it's so wonderful to read a story that acknowledges the bad while also celebrating the good. Because there are so many good people in the world and we don't recognize it enough.
And I also love that, in the end, Death is nothing to be afraid of.
BIG THANK YOUS to everyone who recommended this book to Mark!
This blog introduced me to this novel and I can't even tell you how much I've enjoyed reading it, which is quite strange considering it totally broke my heart and crushed my soul, but I enjoyed it all the same.
Can't wait for His Dark Materials, it's a book I myself haven't read yet and I guess there's no time like the present to start…well, no time like May 23rd I should say.
Thank you for reading this book Mark, it was a great read that I'd never have started (probably) without the impetus of wanting to continue following you!
Oh and in terms of His Dark Materials (EXCITE!!) I don't know if you've already got them yet, but I would recommend the original British version because I know at least one place that was (for some weird reason) changed in the American one. It's really not a big deal, but just thought you might consider it.
I never heard of The Book Thief before you did it here. I'm so glad I read it now because I LOVED the book too. It was a great choice for Mark Reads.
As many others, I wouldn't have heard of this book if you hadn't decided to read it, and it has been a wonderful experience. This is definitely one of my favourite books and I am going to recommend it to everyone I know, if I manage to say something coherent, that is.
Oh and also, HARRY POTTER! HIS DARK MATERIALS! SO EXCITE!
I can't even begin to express how much this book made me cry. Can't even begin to.
This book guys. This book.
I really enjoyed this book and probably wouldn't have read it if not for this blog, so thanks, Mark. Even though parts of this book left me heartbroken, it was such a wonderful and powerful story and I'm really glad I that I took the time to read it. I'm looking forward to reading His Dark Materials along with you next!
I think it was wishful thinking on their parts. The specific people in Liesel's life (husband, children) are never named after the bombing on Himmel Street.
Knowing that Rudy died, I had this half hope throughout the book that Liesel would marry Max. So I was waiting to see whether this was confirmed or denied, and it never was. I think there are arguments for and against this being a good thing.
I think Liesel and Max had a very strong connection, as strong as she had with Hans, Rudy, or Rosa. And I don't think that kind of connection just goes away. I really hope he remained in her life in some way. Part of me hopes she married him and they went on to have lots (well, three) kids and live happily ever after in Sydney. Because how could she ever form a connection with someone that strong? How could they not be joined together forever after all they went through? But I also hope that their relationship developed into something more sibling like. I hope Liesel was able to fall in love with someone else and form connections that didn't rely on her childhood experiences. As formative as they were, I hope that she became more than them.
Zusak leaves this question open to the reader, and I'm glad he does. I can see it going either way.
“Yeah, she’s in the back,” said Alex. He was hopeful, but he wanted to be sure. “May I ask who is calling on her?”
Liesel came out.
They hugged and cried and fell to the floor."
Me: 'Oh god who put all these tears on my face?!?'
I had managed to keep it together through the destruction of Himmel Street but that chapter broke me and made me cry like a baby.
Thanks for reading this book Mark and thanks to all those that suggested it. The Book Thief is probably one of the best things that I have ever read. Thanks also for doing this whole Mark Reads thing, I spend the vast majority of my free time reading but mostly internet forums and blogs so it's nice to be able to get back into reading stories again. I'm really looking forward to reading His Dark Materials as I've heard lots of good things about them for a long time!
This was really a wonderful book. I'd never heard of it, but I looked it up when you said you'd be reviewing it after the Hunger Games, and ended up enjoying it immensely. But I don't think I've ever read anything that made me SO sad.
I also wouldn't have ever read this book if it hadn't come up on this blog and it is fantastic! So thank you to everyone who recommended Mark read this book!
I. LOVE. THIS. BOOK.
(And I'm so, so happy that you do too!)
Thanks for reading this Mark! I'm like so many of the others who wouldn't have read this book if you hadn't, and I'm glad that I did. I was just recommending it to my family at our Mother's day brunch yesterday.
What I love about this blog is just how you read so many different kinds of things and I think it's awesome to open people up to experience things they haven't read before. My "to read" list is now super long because I've been trolling the recommendation threads, and even if you don't read all those books I now feel like I should. 🙂
Anyway, just saying as always, thanks Mark
That didn't really jar me – I think we're just intended to assume that everything (dialogue, Mein Kampf quotes, Max's writings etc) has been translated from German into English for the benefit of the reader. So I would have found it more strange if Mein Kampf had been left in German but Max's writing on top of it was in English.
Though this is relevant to something I was quite impressed with in The Book Thief – the way Zusak manages to seamlessly incorporate both German phrases and their English translations into the dialogue. I definitely think something would have been lost if the German had been left out – some of the words and phrases are so evocative – but at the same time I hate it when my reading is broken up by having to check footnotes for translations, and even more when no translation is provided and I'm left wondering what was meant. It's a nice way of solving a tricky problem.
I agree, I think it makes better sense for Mein Kampf to be in English. I think the audience is meant to read the words bleeding through the background, and it wouldn't be as effective if it was in German.
I haven't commented throughout this book because I couldn't figure out quite how to put how I felt into words. This is pretty unusual for me – I talk non-stop and write like crazy so being lost for words is rather foreign. But The Book Thief made me silent. Thank you so much for reading this and writing such in depth reviews; you've said everything I felt and more.
It's incredible how affecting one book can be.
I personally hold the hope/belief that she did marry Max. Even though there is a bit of an age difference between them, they had such an amazing and special bond. Also, especially after everything they've been through together (and apart), I believe that they could only grow closer. And I'm just a hopeless romantic and I want them to have had that happy ending together. =)
(Please excuse my terrible grammar, I just woke up… >.> *yawn*)
I am so glad you read this book Mark! I didn't read along with you, however, I did read it on my own about a year and a half ago after picking ip up for 25 or 50 cents at my local library's book sale. This is seriously one of my favorite books ever and I loved your input and take on it! It was incredibly nice to relive it again with you. =)
I am really looking forward to read His Dark Materials with you because I actually haven't read it/them before! I was really excited for the books when they came out and asked my father to buy them for me as a birthday present, which he did. However, I didn't get around to reading them right away and my sister got to them before me and she hated them! She told me they were all anti-Christian and evil and whatnot and being the impressionable and devout Christian teen I was, I decided to forego reading them. I have since realized that my sister may have overreacted/exaggerated a bit, and even if she didn't, I am now a devout atheist so any heresy in the books won't bother me! 😉
I was just wondering if anyone else remembered any of the controversy surrounding these books and the Christian church when they first came out? I honestly don't really know much of the story line in these books, I just remember quite a few people were upset (my sister included) with them as they seemed to portray Christianity and/or Christian ideal in a negative light. But maybe it was just people overreacting, as I said I haven't read the book, so I don't know! I was just wondering what other people thought on this topic.
I'm sort of split on the views in this book to be honest. Not being terribly religious myself, I'm not terribly upset with it. Mostly because I sort of felt like Pullman was criticizing the CHURCH not Christianity itself and I can deal with that because I myself have a lot of issues with the church such as why exactly they feel it necessary to tell me what is okay to read and watch and their dealings with women and the child molestation cases.
However, I do sort of think Pullman himself is kind of an arrogant jerk (read his interviews if you don't believe me) and I sort of think he overdid some things. Not being specific because of spoilers. However I do think these are very good books and I appreciate the different view. I think people kind of overreacted to be honest and took it way too personally. But I tend to feel this way about most controversial books. I particularly didn't care for the censorship going on. Just because you don't happen to agree with a book doesn't mean you should try and ban it. Speak your peace, sure but don't try and keep other people from reading it cause they may like it or take a different view on it then you.
I am a Christian and I wasn't bothered so much for the criticism, some of which is frankly deserved in some areas of the church, but I do agree that, without being specific, he overdid some things – also found some bits (will explain when we get there!!) irritating, as characters motivations or logic was just like "Huh? Sorry, what??" – also felt that his message got in the way of the story at times. I adored the first, enjoyed the second, and found the third headdesk irritating at times, which is a shame because there is a lot that is fantastic in the books.
I guess the short way of saying it is that (somewhat ironically, all things considered ;)) I found the tone became more and more preachy as he went on. But I loved Northern Lights and the 2nd and 3rd books do have a lot to recommend them.
From what I remember (and it has been a while since I read all the books through) it's not so much religion or Christianity they criticise, but rather religious extremism in general and the Church. I think it's more about how individuals given too much power by religious institutions can become corrupt, and the dangers of letting the Church start thinking they know what's best for everyone.
I can't really say much more without spoilers! They ARE always going to be a very contentious set of books and (despite being an atheist myself) I do remember feeling a little uncomfortable with some of the things in them. On the other hand, I really enjoyed the books themselves, and you certainly don't have to agree with the philosophies of the author to find them interesting to read.
"I really enjoyed the books themselves, and you certainly don't have to agree with the philosophies of the author to find them interesting to read."
^ very well put.
… talking of philosophies makes me wonder, has anyone suggested Mark reads Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder?? 🙂
When I read them as a devout Christian child I was very uncomfortable when the series went blatant about Christianity. A few years ago I reread them and loved them, as an agnostic. It critiques some of the core myths of Christianity as well as the practices of the Church. There's more to the books than that, though.
I've been bummed that I haven't had time to keep up with Mark Reads – I've had so much reading to do for my classes this semester that I just didn't have time for another book. Now I just have one final left (LAST UNDERGRAD FINAL WOOHOO), so after that's done I can finally read The Book Thief & your reviews. I've already read His Dark Materials – SO EXCITED FOR YOU TO START THIS!!!
omg GOOD LUCK ON YOUR FINAL!!!
It was so worth it, Mark. I really enjoyed reading with you.
Here's a video I found on youtube with Markus Zusak talking about The Book Thief and some of his family members. It's about 4 minutes long.
[youtube m7B8ioiZz7M http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m7B8ioiZz7M youtube]
"I thought no one would read the book. A five hundred page book set in Nazi Germany, the narrator is Death… how do you recommend that to your friends?" Haha, right?
Thanks for posting this! 😀
He is so right. I'm glad the publishers gave him a chance!
ACK! Downvoted when I meant to upvote. Undo! Undo!
That was cute when he explained that it was supposed to be a hundred pages but "I got a bit carried away".
I am excited that you’re reading His Dark Materials! <3 I shall have to reread them with you. I've missed coming to your blog every weekday.
I love this book so much. Like…. so much.
You don't have to do it on here, although that would be awesome, but you should read Zusak's I Am The Messenger on your own time too.
I don't think I've commented once during your reading of The Book Thief, but I have been following your reviews faithfully. I am so glad you read this book. It's possibly my favorite book that I've ever read, for all the reasons that you've said throughout your reviews. It's just so touching and heartbreaking and so very real and human, and it's stuck with me ever since I read it the first time (even though I can't actually find my copy now >_>). I'm glad that you enjoyed it so much.
I also wanted to say that I love your review series in general, because it allows me both to relive what it was like for me to read beloved books for the first time and to see the same book from a different point of view (as slightly contradictory as those reasons may seem). So, thank you for that.
So, I have been a long time fan of yours and have followed you since Twilight, but had yet to post.
I just wanted to say 'Thank You' for doing this. It is always nice to see how other people react to a book.
Love The Book Thief. It is one of my favorites. When Max found Liesel at the end, oh my heart was hurting. Such a lovely part of the book.
Just wanted to say Thank You again. =)
I was PETRIFIED that you wouldn't like The Book Thief when you announced you would read it because it is such a precious book to me, and I'm so happy that you ended up loving it.
The last lines of the book "I am haunted by humans" are, I think, pretty much the best last lines I've ever read. They pack such a perfect, thoughtful, emotional, punch – the idea that instead of Death haunting us as we like to think, we haunt him. That we have such a breathtaking impact, that our stories are still important enough to effect someone who's seen everything. It's both tragic and comforting at the same time, which I feel sums up "The Book Thief" perfectly.
Oh GOD, this BOOK. I can't even tell you how much I love this book, and Markus Zuzak's words.
Mark, I'm so glad you liked it. I tried to read it with you, but ended up finishing it in a couple days because I couldn't stop reading the beautiful words. All the words should be so beautiful.
Definitely one of my favourite books of all time, this one. Seriously life-changing. Their drivers were Hitlers and Hubermanns, and Maxes, killers, Dillers and Steiners went right through me. All the tears and all the love!
Thanks for a glorious ride, Mark!
Oh, and MAXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX!!!!
if you hadn't read this book, i wouldn't have picked it up at the bookstore, or even given it a second glance. what an amazing novel. thank you, mark 🙂
I think it was quieter, in terms of activity levels, mainly because this book is so hard to discuss. It's quite the thump around the head and the ears and isn't an easy or comfortable read.
…but, it was a lovely journey in the end.
I agree. I was here everyday, mainly clicking the "thumbs up" button because I just didn't know what to say and the rest of you seemed to capture my thoughts better. It is also difficult to gush over such sad content, so it always felt out when I tried to express myself.
Looking forward to the next series!
Yeah, plus there were no shipping "teams" to be on. WHAT A RELIEF.
I’ve been waiting until you finished the book to link you to this video, so I finally get to show you! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tmQZT2cjM78 It’s a fanvid for the Book Thief and incredibly moving. 🙂
There's also this, which is a legit book trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQ6f0_0iGf0&fe…
Liesel, Rudy, and Hans all look like how I imagined them. 😀 Except Rosa, if the woman with a worn face is supposed to be her, doesn't resemble a wardrobe. LOL
Your reviews have been as wonderful as always, Mark. & I’m so glad this book can be part of your ‘instant-rec’ list! I’ve followed you since the HP days and I can’t wait to start on something new because I’m never read that trilogy! Oh boyyy.
It's interesting you mentioned this because the first time I read the book, I didn't think about this possibility at all! it just never came up in my head, and this usually never happens to me. When people started talking about these two together, then I realized that it could've happened. I like the idea of it.
I knew that after I came off The Hunger Games series, I’d be taking a blow in terms of how active things were around here I'll admit, that I was one of those who were active during previous Mark Reads projects, but not this one. I was going through some life changes and missed the start of the book. However, I got the book and started reading. I was behind, but with you early on in the "teens" chapters, I thought I could catch up. One day, I checked your page, saw you were in the 60s, and assumed (wrongly) you had finished the book. So I decided to read at my own pace and finish the book. When it turned out that no, you still had chapters to go, I decided not to post here in case of spoilers. But now that you've finished the book as well, I feel free to comment.I loved this book. It's so different from anything I've read in the past. And not subject matter (believe it or not, I do read things OTHER than young adult fantasy) but the way it was written. It's so matter of fact. It doesn't feel like it's trying to preach anything, although it tackles SO MANY THEMES, it's just stating the story as it happens. I love the epilogue. It would have been so easy to end the story with the bombing, and yet, the addition of the aftermath gives the story that much more power. Not only that, it gives us the chilling line "I am haunted by humans." It's like one last sucker punch to the gut, not only making us think about the human race and our actions/non-actions, but with it being the last line, making us leave the book continuing to think about it.
Thanks for introducing me to this book!
I'm not a big one for commenting (I like reading other comments though), but this was a really awesome (in a sad and tragic way) book, and your reviews made it awesome-er. 🙂
I am SO excite for you to do the Hobbit and LOTR (eventually? I think you said you were reading them at some future point). Fantasy/sci fi is my favourite genre, so I am really interested in your thoughts. I didn't really enjoy HDM, so I will probably just read your reviews and not reread the books.
Hi Mark! I am excited to read some more HP reviews and your reviews of His Dark Materials! 🙂 I should read it along with you–I haven't read them in a few years. 🙂
My favorite book ever. It has everything and, as I've commented before, it's heartbreakingly good.
Thank you for reading it, Mark. I think everyone should.
I'm glad that's not in the text, because it never occurred to me and it doesn't feel right at all. In fact it feels as if it sullies my perception of them to even think of that bond as sexual/romantic.
I'm glad you'd recommend this, because it's exactly what I thought. Among other things, the poetic style is the kind I like most in a book, and this one is one of the best examples I've read.
This book actually brought me back to the project, since I didn't read the Hunger Games or watch Doctor Who or Fringe. I had this book lying around and read it once you were halfway through.
I'm going to make a suggestion in your Mark Watches page based on your liking of this book. It's not about words (although one episode has an important word theme), but it's motto is 'this ugly yet beautiful world.' It's got that tone that can depict horrible things without losing beauty.
Death's last line makes me feel ashamed to be human 🙁
I'm so glad you liked this book!! <3
Why do you feel ashamed? I don't think it's negative, as in "humans suck and they won't stop following me around", we haunt him because we are so complex and multifaceted, we show him our worst but we make him keep caring because we fight it with our best, and muddle through somewhere in the middle.
The Book Thief is about Death proving to himself that "we are worth it"; worth caring about. That in turn with being haunted by scenes of Stalingrad and concentration camps he is ALSO haunted by handmade books and Jesse Owens incidences and libraries and accordions and simple kindness. He's haunted because he can't stop caring.
I really love how you put your response and interpretation of the last line. I agree with your interpretation, but outside of that, it's beautifully stated.
On a note barely related to his post, I finally managed to read a book along with Mark. I'm inordinately proud of myself. What a book to do this with.
My heart hurts, but in a good way, not like in the aftermath of the bombing where I was crying on strangers with sadness. This was crying on strangers with joy that Isla, Alex Steiner, and Max are all there for Liesel. And I don't know about you guys, but I totally imagine Death leading Liesel to a field where Hans, Rosa, Rudy, Werner, and her mother are all waiting for her…which leads to more happy tears on strangers unfortunate enough to be sitting next to me.
I'm so glad you read this, Mark. Thank you for such a lovely journey. The comments weren't as busy as before, but it's not like there were any people to go tell to DIE IN A FIRE or to create any teams. I know I only popped in when something really moved to me. But I know we all stayed with you in spirit.
But I'm also SO INCREDIBLY EXCITED for you to start HDM. Can't wait!
I came pretty close to telling Frau Diller to go DIE IN A FIRE when she spat in Hans' face …but I'm really glad I didn't, because she kind of did. :S
That's very true. I think I just blocked her from my memory….
It's interesting you mention this because one of the first thoughts I had upon finishing this book was, "I'm glad the narrator did not explicitly state that Liesel and Max ended up together because it leaves it open for people to imagine whatever they want or believe is true for the characters." I go back and forth on it. All I know for sure is that Max and Liesel stayed in each other's lives forever.
Sydneysider delurking to mention something that I love about this epilogue.
Anzac Avenue, the street Liesel lived on as an old lady, is named after the ANZACs – the Australian and New Zealand Army Corp, a group of soldiers who fought in the Battle of Gallipoli in WW1. ANZAC Day has morphed into a sort of second Rememberance Day in Australia, in which we remember Aussie and Kiwi soldiers who have died in all wars. One of the main roads in eastern Sydney is called Anzac Parade.
I thought it was a minor masterstroke on Zusak's part to slide that reference in there.
I am very glad you enjoyed this book, Mark, and I am looking forward to reading your reviews of HDM 🙂
I thought the same thing!
me too… 🙂
Thank you, Potteraholic, for pointing me to "Mark reads Harry Potter".
Thank you, Mark, for reading "The Book Thief". And thanks to everybody who recommended this. Best Book Ever!
Thank you, fellow readers, for your insightfull comments.
I love this site.
I'm glad you finished the book and enjoyed the beautiful, evocative, gorgeous ending 🙂
I was hoping for you to start the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld because the deep meanings and thought-provoking issues are in there, embedded subtlely in a refreshing story which might be a good mental transition from 'The Book Thief'.
But thinking about Northern Lights, it feels like a good alternative too – albeit a slightly 'meatier' fantasy. I'm looking forward to reading your reviews on the series and I hope you enjoy the book too 🙂
I haven't posted much at all on The Book Thief, but I read along with you faithfully. I had already read this book and enjoyed even more reliving it with you. But I found it left me more contemplative and without words. It left me looking inward and outward at relationships.
It's been a meaty experience that I have enjoyed thoroughly.
There is only one thing that can come close to reading a good book. Sharing the experience with others.
"Something about a kiss.
Something about a Saumensch.
How many times did she have to say goodbye?"
This makes me cry, still.
"He survived. He found Liesel. Something went right. That’s what we need to know."
Thank you for sharing your reading of TBT with us, Mark, and for making me read it again.
Life Responsibilities reared their ugly heads and kept me from commenting as much as I would like near the end. I just wanted to say that I did actually read the chapters along with you, and I enjoyed your reviews. Thank you for inspiring me to read this book.
His Dark Materials I have already read, but I will at least follow the reviews :). I'm curious to see if you'll have the same reactions I did. I might read along after July (when I go to the correct continent for picking up my physical copies of the trilogy).
This chapter tore my heart up into pieces. I never thought that Death would be one of my favorite characters <3
mlkdjksmmklgkdjklgdgd so excited. Northern Lights is one of my favorite books ever (and it's definitely my favorite of the trilogy). I have a feeling you'll love it.
Northern Lights is my favourite of the three too 🙂
I regret that I fell off the wagon with this one – I don't know what's going on with me at the moment and my unwillingness to read – and because it's been a few years I couldn't really participate without reading it again. But I do really want to read His Dark Materials, so I might have to grab some audio books – so much easier to consume on the train home after a long day of data entry when my eyes are just too tired to read – And I've just finished doing so with Goblet of Fire so it won't be interrupting anything else.
I'm so glad you loved The Book Thief like I did, though 🙂
This book. Wow.
All I'm going to say.
And I gasped with joy when I got to the ebook project, by the way. SO EXCITED.
When my book club read this book, a lot of us wondered who Liesel ended up marrying because, after Rudy, wouldn't it be really painful to fall in love again? After losing so many people in her life, wouldn't it have been hard for her to make that kind of bond? And then one of the others said, pretty suddenly, "Maybe she married Max. A lot of Holocaust survivors moved away from Germany, from Europe entirely, after the war." So that's the ending in my mind. Just figured I'd share it.
I am so…DEPRESSED!
I was so sure you'd be reading Uglies next!
I waited like 2 months!
I guess in July or so you'll be reading it? Maybe?
he said he'd do The Hobbit/ LOTR next somewhere and that might be it for 2011.
LOTR? Mark make do of LOTR? I am SO over-the-moon-happy-I-could-sing.
I was a regular reader during your Harry Potter phase, but when you started with the Hunger Games, I stopped visiting your site mainly out of fear of being spoiled seeing as how I have yet to read those books and also because I was wandering around at the other end of the world for a bit.
So today, when the thought crossed my mind to check and see what you were up to and I come here and see you read the Book Thief…I just read through all the reviews in about 3hours. I love that book. It might very well be my favorite book, it is definitely the one that touches me the most. First time I read it was 3 years ago and by now I have reread it at least 6 times and it still makes me cry. It still leaves me feeling emotionally drained and yet, at the same time, this book gives me hope. What you said about Liesel being so full of hope, is, I think, so right. It is one of the reasons I love the book so much and yet I could never put it into words. It's bizarre that a book set in Nazi Germany (I am German, so maybe another reason why this book affects me so much) is the book that gives me faith in humans but that is exactly what it manages to do. It makes me hope.
Brilliant and beautiful as The Book Thief was, I have to say I'm really psyched that we're moving on to His Dark Materials. One of the things I love most about this site is the debates that spark in the comments, and there hasn't been a whole lot of that lately. There's only so much you can chip in when all the commentary is "Omg, this part is so sad!" and "My, that's a lovely bit of imagery!" But I actually just finished Amber Spyglass today (for a Religion class, no less) and oh, boy, will Pullman bring the debates back. In full force. I might even get a real account so I can finally join in properly.
It was a lovely and poetic vacation, but now we're jumping back into the HIGH SEAS OF LITERARY ADVENTURE! Woo! *puts on Cape of Controversy and waits eagerly for the ship to leave the dock* 🙂
I just read this book.
My brain wants to cry.
geezus KROIST THIS BOOK HAS DESTROYED ME.
THIS BOOK MAKES MOCKINGJAY LOOK LIKE KITTENS.
oh god, he killed em all. he killed em ALL.
I love this book, and I loved loved loved reading your thoughts. Definitely one of my favourite books, and one that for fairly obvious reasons seems to take a special place in the hearts of pretty much everyone who reads it.
Have you read The Messenger, or I Am The Messenger as I think it's called in the States? Also by Zusak. Writing is just as wonderful, but also remarkable in how /different/ it is to The Book Thief. And yet he still manages to write it and make it feel like a completely new type of story. I mean, The Book Thief is in my opinion better, and I get the feeling you'd agree. But Messenger is by any other standard a magnificent book, with wonderful prose, and not as dark, too, which can be good.
I have feelings, and I don't think I can quite articulate them any better than I did on Twitter, and I'm just so glad I picked up this book randomly on tuesday and read it in about three sittings.
I'm haunted by this book, and I want to reread it immediately and I can't because I haven't figured out how I feel about it, and that is all I can say
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I showed this to my girlfriend last night and it made sense