The Book Thief (with spoileers)

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The Book Thief (with spoileers)

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feb 15, 2009, 4:57 pm

Well, since this book sometimes tells what is going to happen later on, there aren't really too many spoilers. But for those of you who have gotten really far in the book and just want to burst out all your feelings, feel free =)

feb 15, 2009, 9:30 pm


well, almost everyone.

feb 16, 2009, 12:45 am

That's not really a spoiler, MrA. Since the narrator is Death we can assume that everyone dies at some point.

feb 16, 2009, 1:02 am

The narrator doesn't :P~

Redigeret: feb 16, 2009, 8:18 am

You mean John Donne lied to me?!?!
"One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more, Death thou shalt die."
-- Holy Sonnet 6

Then again, I suppose he wasn't talking about the writings of an Australian novelist 400 years in the future. Carry on.

feb 17, 2009, 12:07 am

Well... in all fairness, John Donne is dead, and Death isn't...

I really did like the characterization of Death in the books. He makes a great narrator. The way that he interjects all sorts of things throughout the book is really telling you of his character. He wants to be known and understood in a way that he understands these few stories he picks up during his travels. It's like he wants to be the reader's friend, but he knows that in reality he will only meet us as he carries us into the afterlife.

At the time I think that Zusak is using Death to play around with the whole concepts of "death's great secrets." Death really is a blabbermouth, but his constant asides help draw us into the story instead of pulling us away.

It's getting late, and I've completely lost my train of thought, but I wanted to throw some stuff out there for the people who are reading the book now to see what they think.

feb 17, 2009, 11:21 am

The book Thief was one of my favorite reads of 2008. I genarally hate asides but like Espy said, these were great.

its refreshing to read a book set in WWII that shows a different perspective. It is usually 'THOSE EVIL, SOULESS GERMANS!!" but here we have Germans, who sacrifice everything to help a Jew. Its lovely. I guess it's easy to forget that not all Germans were Nazis. I really love the part where Hans helps the man in the precession, but at the same time I thought, "ah, Hans! What have you done!" But how can you stand by and watch someone else suffer and do nothing?

One of my favorite parts is the book the Max writes. You can still see parts of Mein Kampf through the "paint". Its a very cool effect, I think.

I was devastated when everyone on Himmel street died. Yes I knew Rudy would die but I didn't know that Rosa and Hans, whom I adored , were also going to die! I was on the train when I read that part and I'm sure people were wondering what was wrong with me.

feb 17, 2009, 5:00 pm

I thought there was slight foreshadowing because one of the first time Rudy tries to kiss Liesel, she says that she will never kiss him as long as they are both alive. And then in the end, she kisses him when he was dead. After rereading this I seem to be catching all the little hints.

feb 17, 2009, 9:37 pm

I read The Book Thief during the holiday season, and it was one of my favorite books of 2008. I don't have a copy with me to keep up with the book discussion, but I do have one thing:
Death said that he wasn't the stereotypical psychopomp with the syche (sp-?). I still can't get that image out of my head and read Death as the psychopomp anyway. What did you guys see Death as?
Also, I was constantly reminded of Ron in Deathly Hallows: "Death got tired of flapping his arms and got his invisibility cloak to sneak up on them" (or something to that effect).

feb 18, 2009, 1:13 pm

Has anyone else read any of the other book tht Mark Zusak has written? Have you noticed that there is always someone who curses a lot. I love it!

feb 18, 2009, 4:03 pm

I love how the majority of the curses are in German. It adds character... to the characters... hehe.

feb 18, 2009, 4:06 pm

Oh, yeah. Since I read that and and abundance of katherines, I curse in German too.

I met this German turist once and I asked her if Germans used the curses and she didn't know some of them, but she said that it sounded really nice and polite to call people 'pig person'. Of course we were both rather drunk at the time so I'm sure she was kidding :D

feb 19, 2009, 5:15 pm

Something I was interested in discussing about The Book Thief was the setting. I read somewhere (possibly in the afterword?) that Zusak originally had this story taking place in Australia before rewriting it in Nazi Germany.

No offense to the Oz folks, but I really can't imagine this book being near as poignant or powerful if it had been told in a different setting. Does anyone else have thoughts on this? Is there another time/place that you think the story would have worked well?

feb 19, 2009, 8:42 pm

Maybe he meant he was writing it in Australia ;)

feb 19, 2009, 9:01 pm

I think it was originally supposed to be told as a flashback by Leisel, who lives in Australia when Death meets her, but I think he decided to go with Death as the narrator instead.

I could be completely wrong here, though.

feb 20, 2009, 1:34 pm

I rarely read after words (or introductions) so I don't know about that. But, I really can't think of a better setting for THIS particular book. All the elements worked so well together. Nowhere else would Hans and Rosa's sacrifices have been more valuable or significant than right smack in the middle of Nazi Germany.

feb 20, 2009, 7:18 pm

And I feel that since Nazi Germany has such a huge effect on people, this setting was the most effective.

feb 20, 2009, 7:19 pm

whats the Book Theif?

feb 20, 2009, 8:01 pm

Puppet: The Book Thief is an excellent book written by Markus Zusak a writer from Australia who has written very good books. If you're ever curious about any of the books we talk about you can always click on the link and read all about it on the Works Page dedicated to the book.

feb 20, 2009, 8:02 pm

thank u

feb 22, 2009, 11:10 am

I'm reall enjoying reading this discussion. I absolutely loved the book. If you're wondering why I'm not necessarily joining in, it's because everyone is putting things so much better than I would.

As you were...

feb 22, 2009, 4:52 pm

I loved how Death had little incerpts (is that the right word?) of his thoughts or a little tidbit of information. It gave Death more depth (try to say that 10 times fast) and it also gave some humor at times.
What do you guys think?

feb 22, 2009, 8:06 pm

Having Death narrate Nazi Germany is definitely perfect for this book. I think it made the whole book far more powerful than Leisel's story would have been anywhere else. Especially with the emphasis on the power of words. In a place where words had enormous impact on people's thoughts and actions.

Zusak has the most wonderful phrasing. I'll have to go look up a few specific ones. The only one that's coming to mind right now is the comment on curtain color. It says something about the curtains only letting in dirt-colored light, but if you were optimistic, you could call it bronze.

feb 23, 2009, 2:16 pm

#21--> smurflocks! No one else would say it with an English accent or extra "u"'s (colour)(hee hee hee) (glamour) (ha ha ha) EEEEEEEEEE!

feb 23, 2009, 2:18 pm

ha ha ha!!

Redigeret: feb 23, 2009, 7:54 pm

I finished reading The Book Thief Friday night. I was crying and it was very frustrating having to wait before being able to discuss it here.

Some of my first thoughts when reading this book was how it made me think of my grandmother. She doesn't swear in German like Rosa Hubberman but when impatient with me as a kid would say something "schnell." ('Quickly.')

I agree with Espy that Death made a very good narrator. At times I wondered how he would tell the story so well from such a distance as he would be at times from her but it became more understood later, especially with Liesel's book which he picked up. There were times when I felt sorry for Death. Who want to be the one who no one wants to see? But then we saw some did want to see him and he explained how some were ready and waiting for him as Hans and Liesel were. Still, there was so much time that he was alone save for carrying away the dead. It must have been lonely, and during that time in particular, depressing. (It would be depressing at any time, but then...Much worse.)

I also agree with suge that it was interesting to hear a WWII story in which there were some good Germans. A part of me has always hated being German for an obvious reason.

Something I thought about whenever they would go to the shelter was how the Mayor's was far away enough that perhaps it could act as a safe place in a disaster as a place Liesel could go to in the aftermath. When Liesel survived the hit on Himmel Street I predicted that she would go to the Mayor's house to live. It's a good (but of course) very sad near-end to the story because we know not only is the book almost over but that Liesel is done being a book thief.

I think I misread parts because I had it in my head that Rudy would die in a river. I thought he was surely about to die because of that when he went in the river to reclaim Liesel's book. I hated that poor Rudy was dead before Liesel kissed him and told him she loved him. I felt very bad all the times that he was hungry.

Good byes are hard and I understood Liesel's desire to not look at the eyes of some of the dead, such as Hans. After reading parts of books I sometimes go back and read again trying to picture it from another character's perspective. This was something I did after Himmel Street was bombed imagining the point of view of those who discovered Liesel. I thought to myself that perhaps they knew Liesel heard the accordian playing.

I kept thinking about Max after he didn't die that day he was marched with captured Jews. (I had expected him to die then after thinking he would the one winter in which he slept so much.) I waited for him to return in the story and was happy he found his way back to see Liesel again. What I didn't like was Zusak leaving us to decide for ourselves this question: Did Liesel marry just anyone, or did she marry Max? I wondered because though he was older, the years wouldn't be as dramatic as she got older. He was in his twenties when she was in her teens.

mar 3, 2009, 9:30 am

I was just noticing that Zusak names Liesel's books the same way he names his own books. The Whistler, The Standover Man, The Dream Carrier, The Book Thief, The Messenger.

K, I really liked that the book showed nice Germans too. It's easy to feel sort of prejudiced because of the whole Nazi thing.

Good thought on Death's lonely job. I often felt sorry for him since he seemed to get a little depressed himself. Reading Death's feelings made him so human.

mar 5, 2009, 10:57 am

I finished the book last night and wanted to post here before the thread gets buried. I really loved the book and I also agree with K, lefty, suge and everyone who liked to hear the story of WWII coming from Germans. I don´t think I can add anything new to the discussion but I really liked the parts where death is getting out of the narrative to give the reader a piece of information. Loved the 2nd story Max gave Liesel. I am planning to get more books by Zusak and read them quickly.

And I will convince all of my friends to read this book so they are addicted to it too :P

mar 5, 2009, 1:32 pm

I'm trying to find a copy of Fighting Ruben Wolfe but I can't find one anywhere. Its the only zusak I haven't read.

mar 5, 2009, 1:47 pm

There are used versions on Amazon, but they want $14 for it. It is a hardcover at least...

mar 5, 2009, 3:33 pm

I'm sort of late to the discussion and so I agree with much of what's been said so let me reiterate. . .

I adore death as a narrator. I think it was one of the most compelling things about the book. Perhaps this is because when I was little and for a time thought I was going to die -I found death comforting.

This death is tired, tired of his work, his world. It reminded me of Wim Wenders film The Wings of Desire which is splendid and worth watching.

One thing that hasn't been mentioned that I appreciate enormously is that I think the setting of Nazi Germany has often been used in book for manipulative effect. To manipulate the reader into feeling bad. Let me clarify- the events of Nazi Germany are a horror and so I am leary if a fiction writer casually attempts to use them to create an emotional effect in me as a reader. The horror of actual events does not need embellishment.

Zusak doesn't do that, in part because Death tells you who is going to die. So the events of his story while amplified by being in Nazi Germany do not try to manipulate the reader with surprise deaths. The deaths are moving because of the story, and how it unfolds. They are moving because even death is moved in the midst of still more death.

Anyway that's enough from me.

mar 5, 2009, 5:19 pm

Very well said, Maren. And an excellent point on the story being moving of its own accord and not because of surprise deaths.

mar 22, 2009, 11:33 pm

I loved The Book Thief! I read it a few months back and it's now one of my favorite books. I'm actually working on a book report for it write now (and procrastinating).

#13 el: You are correct. Zusak said "The original idea was set in the present, in Sydney, which didn't feel quite right."

#26 K, I thought about Liesel and Max too. I wondered if she married him but I wasn't sure if it was too weird, like he was a brother to her and not a lover.

apr 29, 2009, 10:29 pm

I had mounting anxiety as a finished the book because I had a feeling Zuzak was going to leave us hanging on whether or not Liesel and Max married! I saw it potentially coming from back when he was living in the basement and was desperate to know it had happened in the end!

This book. This amazing, incredible, outrageous book. I finished it less than half an hour ago, so my thoughts are a disjointed mess (and I still have a bit of a headache from holding back the tears so I could see the last several pages).

The one thing I cannot say enough about is Zuzak's writing style. It's truly genius.

maj 6, 2009, 10:46 am

The idea of Liesel & Max marrying is kind of creepy, guys. She's just a girl.

Unlike many of you, I didn't really love the death-as-narrator thing. It seemed a contrivance to me and I really hated the dramatic pauses in the writing. You're already in Nazi Germany, you don't need to overplay it. I agree with Maren that it can sometimes just be a cheap device to set something in Nazi Germany because of the built in pathos, but this book is so effecting because the characters are all so human and lovable, not just because they are caught up in the most horrible of circumstances. I also loved that it told about ordinary people coping, and did not demonize anyone but Hitler himself, pretty much.

Yeah, I liked it very much.

It seems a very personal book, that the author is telling stories of his actual relatives. I wonder who Liesel really was, his grandmother perhaps?

Redigeret: maj 6, 2009, 11:48 am

Liesel and Max were only six or eight years apart, by my reckoning; coming together later in life and marrying wouldn't be that creepy, I don't think. No one thinks anything of a ten (or more) year difference when it's between a twenty-five and a thirty-five year old.

I enjoyed how each character (with the exception, maybe, of Hans, who was pretty much depicted as an angel all around) was shown as having near equal positive and negative qualities. Too often, I think protagonists especially are presented as truly good with one minor personality flaw - which is often "fixed" - or truly evil with a soft spot that's enhanced to overcome the evil by the end. These characters were so very human. Loving and hurting one another by turns, giving and stealing away, idiosyncratic and stoic... No fairy tale heroics, no end-of-life epiphanies. Just real things that real people do and are.

maj 6, 2009, 12:25 pm

Well, I guess it's about a young person coming of age during the worst possible times and slapping a romance onto it is like lipstick on a pig to me. It's not what this story is about. It's about friendship and courage and a different kind of love.

I was actually hoping that we'd never find out what happened to Max. It was a little too Hollywood that he survived the camps when everyone else died in the bombing. But I'm ok with it.

Downsides to Hans' personality: took too much crap from Rosa, was a crappy provider, a dreamer, and he put Max back out on the street with his carelessness. So yeah, an angel in a certain way but perhaps not the smartest angel around.

I wish we had more of Rosa's story. We never learn where she got that crusty edge. We know lots of backstory about Hans and Ilsa and others, but only the surface of Rosa. She intrigued me.

maj 6, 2009, 12:29 pm

Another thing I loved was how subtly the author showed the neighbors banding together and forgetting their petty grievances as the situation worsened, like with Mrs. Hotlzapfel.