Rahul Goel

The Book Thief

Posted on: June 17, 2024

If my memory serves me right, it was 2015 when I learned about this book, and I've had it on my reading list since then. I think I even attempted to read it back then, but I cannot remember why I immediately had to stop. I wish I didn't because then I would have spent the past decade knowing I had read an excellent book.

A lot of people emphasize the fact that this book is narrated by Death. You would expect Death to perform a cold and harsh narration. It is quite the opposite. Death seems to be a very emotional and observational being and seems to be worried about every person it has to take away from this world unwillingly. This book is Death's narration of the story about Liesel, a German girl living in a poor neighbourhood during the second world war.

It is different from the typical kind of book that I always read. I didn't live in anticipation of what next is going to happen. Instead, my premonitious self was constantly dreading the upcoming pages. Death itself gives you all the spoilers in the middle of the book. You already know what is going to happen. I think there are multiple reasons for this choice: (i) Death is being considerate towards Liesel and her story. It doesn't want to make a show out of it. (ii) Death is being considerate towards you, the reader. It lets you know how the story ends before you become too attached to the characters. I think that in Death's opinion, it is easier this way.

So no part of me was in a hurry to know what happens next. I already knew. As a consequence, I read the book slowly, enjoying all the events happening in Liesel's life. The street she lives in consists of several peculiar and unique people. Everyone is different; everyone has a story. This makes up for a diverse set of incidents throughout the three or so years she spends living in Himmel Street, and every such story, happy or sad, is entertaining regardless.

Life, in general, is affected due by the ongoing war and the Nazi regime. The author did a great job of intertwining the events with this to show how day-to-day life for the people had changed: the daily jobs, buying groceries, life at school, etc. And then there were direct events indicating it: the celebrations, marches, parades, routine checkings, joining the youth army, and whatnot. What I'm trying to say is that the readers get a nice understanding of the way of life of an ordinary man during those times.

As mentioned before, we gradually move towards the end of the book, which Death, out of concern, has already spoiled for us. It is really devastating to unroll the happenings in Himmel Street. Death itself wishes that it could be avoided. We think that we're terrified of humans, but Death lets us know humans haunt it instead.