Saturday, 19 January 2008

The book thief

I have a confession to make, I’m an addict!

I’m seriously addicted to reading. Since I was young, my parents had to live with me reading in bed, under the covers, laying on the couch face down with the book on the floor or turning from one side to the other trying to rest my arms during a marathon reading session when I was hooked to some book. For me books were an unlimited source for knowledge and food for the imagination, I never had a certain book type that I go for, I read everything and anything and in spite of the advances in the technology, I’m a die hard fan of the physical book. It’s like a life long relationship, replacing a book with an e-book is kind of unfaithful in my mind, it’s like replacing a wife with a mistress!

Coming over to this country and being busy with my study, and later my work, my addiction didn’t subsided. In the country of “3 for 2” and “buy 1 get 1 free” the temptation of Boarders, WHSmith and Amazon was too great to resist. Even before I knew that I’ll be settling in this country, my largest position was soon books (a couple of large boxes by the end of my masters year) and now, having a house to myself, I’m starting to struggle with finding enough space for my books!

When I walk to a bookshop, I’m rarely looking for a specific book, I window shop at book stores and enjoy experimenting with the books I buy, some of the best books I read were ones I bought on a spree rather than intently. One of these books was “The Book Thief”

Some books are moving, some hit a soft spot within you, some are blatantly asking for an emotional involvement from the reader and some are too cheesy it’s a bit too much for my taste, The Book Thief is not one of those! It’s in a whole new level of its own.

The story is about a little girl in Nazi Germany who escapes the madness of the world around her into the world of the books she read. The books that she steels for the snow, the fire and the authority. In a country that was demonised, brain washed and massacred by words, the book thief have used words to heal wounds, help people and keep some sanity in a mad time. the book talks about Liesel’s life from 1939 when she was 8 till 1943 when she was almost 13. the story is narrated by Death, he has been so busy during that time, trying to race around and catch up with the extra workload of the time but is, at the same time, fascinated with humans who are capable of such ugliness and such beauty all at once.

Reading the book for me was like falling in love, you start with curiosity than familiarity, during which I was still able to restrain myself to reading just during my morning commute, then, without realising how, you’re so attached you’re left breathless with the beauty of the words and the story behind them. I was hocked so that having to close the book when I get to work was getting increasingly difficult. I tried the discipline of reading one chapter a day but every time I close the book it would plead to me to come back again and again and again.

Throughout the book, the narrator will make mental stops, explaining something, pointing out something or giving a glimpse of things to come. These mental stops were not intrusive, they were set out in the book in a non-disruptive way; it was like driving a wonderful picturesque road and with the grand scenery you’ll come across a beautiful rose bush on the side of the road, it doesn’t distract you from the beauty around but supplements an extra dosage of charm to your trip.

"First the Colors, then the humans.

That's usually how I see things.

Or at least how I try"


“the girl knew from the onset that he’d always appear mid-scream, and he would not leave.

šA Definition Not Found in The Dictionary

Not-Leaving: An act of trust and love, often deciphered by children.”

"A Small Piece of truth:
I do not carry a sickle or scythe. I only wear a hooded black robe when it’s cold.

And I don’t have those skull-like facial features that you seem to enjoy pinning on me from a distance. You want to know what I truly look like?

I’ll help you out. Find yourself a mirror while I continue.”


“Five hundred souls.

I carried them in my fingers, like suitcases. Or I’d throw them over my shoulder. It was only the children I carried in my arms.”


“she didn’t dare to look up, but she could feel their frightened eyes hanging on to her as she hauled the words in and breathed them out. A voice played the notes inside her. This, it said, if your accordion.

The sound of the turning page carved them in half. Liesel read on.”


The story flows like a summer dream even with the horrors that it carried. You would feel the grip on your heart when you read the recount of death’s visit to Liesel’s friend, you can see, even without closing your eyes, the destruction as the world around her fell to pieces and she remained there among the rubble of a shattered life, you will not hold your tears back as she lets hers flow for the ones she love. By the end of the book, Liesel will be part of you and the loss, the joy, the highs and the words will belong to you as much as they belonged to the words shaker.

The moment I closed the book I felt the urge to turn back to the front page and read it again, this time slower, taste the lines again. I wanted to read it with a mental camera to capture the most beautiful of scenes as if selecting one was something possible. I still have the book by my side, like a love affair, you can never walk away completely and you will revisit what happened again and again.

If you have the time, read this book, if you don’t have the time, try to spare some moments for it, it’s so much worth it.

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak, first published in Australia in 2005.


أُمنية said...

that was so nice to read. i used to be like this, i used to go deep inside the books and nearly feel the characters with me in the room. i really miss feeling a book again.

The Syrian Brit said...

I once had a 'love affair' like the one you describe.. it was a much more torrid, violent and altogether unpleasant an experience.. It was with Robert Fisk's 'Pity The Nation'.. I started reading it when I was admitted to Hospital for a minor operation a couple of years after I came to the UK, and I simply could not put it down.. It took me back to some horrible memories of my time in Beirut.. It was like stepping inside the book, and touching each and every character, and experiencing each and every scene all over again...
No e-book can do that to you.. never..

Lujayn said...

Arent books the greatest adventure? My sister complains I go into a coma when I read. I once read a book that I enjoyed so much, I stopped midway and put it away. I didnt want it to end. Three years later, maybe its time I finished it. :))

Syrian in London said...

Thanks for your comments, I admit that i don't have time to read these days as before but no matter how busy i am, i can't stop reading all together. Pick a book and get lost in it, that's the best thing you can do!

Syrian in London said...

Syrian Brit
I can imagine that reading the book you mentioned if you've lived there at the time would be a system shock. I have to admit that I didn't read the book you talked about but it's on my list for future readying now. With this kind of books I always read it with a degree to suspicion regarding its historical accuracy.
I’m glad to know that there is someone other than me who would run his/her fingers on the pages of a book to feel the words more!

Syrian in London said...

Welcome to my world dear, if I enjoy a book I will not put it down no matter what (even during exams including بكلوريا!) and the more I like the book the faster I would read it till I get to the end and usually I revisit it again in a couple of month (yes i do read books more than once). Share which books you like, I’m always open for new ideas on best and favourites...

Anonymous said...

books suck!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Syrian in London said...

this just means that you're missing on a wonderful thing. Sorry to hear that!

james0289 said...

I've just finished this book, and it's definitely one of my favourites. I just love how cuttingly drole Death can be sometimes. :D