The Book Thief By Markus Zusak - Book Club Discussion

Posted at 14:57pm on 20th March 2018

Words, words, words.  Too many of them thought some members of my Book Club.  But words, and their critical importance for good and evil – particularly when used by Adolph Hitler in the lead up to World War II – were the theme of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.  And despite its length, we all loved the book!

Set in Nazi Germany in 1939, the story of a nine year old girl unfolds.  Her mother, a Communist fleeing from Hitler, has put her up for adoption, along with her younger brother who dies on the train.  Leisel’s fear is palpable when she meets her new mama, a hard-hitting and outspoken woman, with a hidden heart.  It is papa who engages with the girl, and he who, on discovering that she is illiterate, teaches her to read – her first book being the Grave Digger’s Handbook, which she stole at her brother’s burial.

And thus the pattern is set.  While papa plays his accordion, Leisel continues to steal books.  Until, eventually, Max, a Jew hiding in their cellar so as not to have to face the concentration camp, teaches her to write.

DEATH: THE STORYTELLER

With Death the narrator, busy gathering up the fallen souls of the dead and dying, a box of tissues is an essential tool while reading the book.  I wasn’t alone, I learned, in sobbing my heart out in places.  But with Rudy, Leisel’s friend constantly challenging her to races and further stealing, with a kiss the desired, but never fulfilled, object of each game, there’s plenty to laugh about too.  And a heart-warming message as he and Leisel faced the violence of German officers, in order to feed the starving Jews a dry crust of bread.

AN EYE-OPENER

What struck my Readers’ Group, was the amount we learned about the other side of WW2.  Hitherto un-thought of truths about those who refused to join The Nazi Party or Hitler’s Youth movement; those who risked their lives hiding Jews in their cellars; the returning German soldiers who, devastated by memories of what had been required of them, hung themselves rather than continue to face life. 

The book was overlong, yes.  But it was an eye-opener to the commonality of human beings.  Words conveyed the story.  And the story conveyed previously unheard truths.  All in all, an excellent read!

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A gentle psychological mystery solved by a counsellor, based in Exeter and Dartmouth.  This novel not only entertains it inspires.  Pam Rhodes

 

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