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Hold My Heart // Tenth Avenue North 

Well...I am finally done with the Book Thief. I thought I’d never finish it because I was reading it on and off since early April. I am going to be completely honest...I didn’t like the Book Thief as much as others did. There was nothing wrong with the book and I don’t have any criticisms. It’s just that I wasn’t enjoying the story and it didn’t particularly interest me. I thought to myself ‘is there something I’m missing?’ I did really really wanted to like this book because it’s so loved with 5 star ratings and I thought I’d really like it too, but that really wasn’t happening. I just hate it when that happens you know? When everyone else loves a book and you don’t feel the same way about it. 

“I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race - that rarely do I even 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...I AM HAUNTED BY HUMANS."

I think interesting thing about the book to begin with is that the story is narrated by Death who is haunted by humans. As the narrative, he is rather humourous and sarcastic at the same time. I was intrigued to read about the story of World War II from his point of view. The story is set in Germany, Munich on 33 Himmel Street. It follows the life of Liesel Meminger, German girl who is fostered by Hans and Rosa Hubermann. Liesel is an orphan, she never knew her father, her mother left her and her brother died on the train to Molching. Death begins to watch over her shoulder, when Liesel steals her first book ‘the Gravedigger’s handbook’ at nine years old. 

Later on into the story, we are introduced to Rudy Steiner who becomes Liesel’s best friend. He is described as having lemon coloured hair, blue eyes and bony legs, yet he is quite skilled at athletics and idolizes the runner Jesse Owens. Both of them embark on adventures and book stealing from the Mayor’s wife. He often teases her and asks for a kiss, when he has done something for Liesel. 

In the middle of the story, we meet a character called Max Vandenburg. Max is a Jew who is forced into hiding. He meets Hans Hubermann once he arrives in Molching, who lets him live in their basement because he is the son of a friend in World War I and he promise the wife that he’d do anything to help. There is a risk of allowing Max to live under their roof because if they were found out, they’d be taken away and punished. The friendship growing between Max and Liesel is so endearing and innocent, I think it touched my heart. He writes two illustrative books for Liesel, one of them was for her birthday and it was called ‘The Standover Man,’ which tells a story of Max coming to Molching and him staying comfortably at her bedside. Another was called, “The Word Shaker.” 

There’s this one scene when Hans takes pity on an elderly man who is a Jew and gives him some bread. The consequences are that he and the elderly man are whipped. Hans later on receives his punishment, which is he has to participate in military service. This forces Hans to have Max leave for his safety after the incident because he is afraid this will draw attention to the Nazi. How awful it was it during the war in the 1940s? Punished for who you are? Your freedom taken away? I can’t imagine all the pain and agony Jews had to go through during that time. I remember studying History when I was a younger and watching the Anne Frank documentary, which was heartbreaking. I remember buying this short story by Anne Frank, it was a biography and it was truly one of the best stories I’ve ever read. It brought tears to my eyes. 

Towards the end of the book, Liesel wrote a story called ‘the Book Thief,’ which is about her life since living in Himmel Street with her foster parents and the last line to end her story was, “I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.” 

The ending was really sad and I did expect it to happen because it is during the war. Expect the unexpected, I always say. Through Markus Zusak’s writing, he tells us through Death’s perspective on the damages and devastation a war can do and how it takes away your love ones. Death as the narrative, is quite lonely, haunted by humans and watches over children. The writing is quite poetic to read about and the story worked, Markus Zusak did a great job. 

This book is about love, friendship, courage and loss. The story speaks for itself. 

Here are some of my favourite quotes:

“I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn'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.”

“I carried [Rudy] softly through the broken street...with him I tried a little harder [at comforting]. I watched the contents of his soul for a moment and saw a black-painted boy calling the name Jesse Owens as he ran through an imaginary tape. I saw him hip-deep in some icy water, chasing a book, and I saw a boy lying in bed, imagining how a kiss would taste from his glorious next-door neighbor. He does something to me, that boy. Every time. It's his only detriment. He steps on my heart. He makes me cry.”

“I have to say that although it broke my heart, I was, and still am, glad I was there.”

“He stood waist-deep in the water for a few moments longer before climbing out and handing her the book. His pants clung to him, and he did not stop walking. In truth, I think he was afraid. Rudy Steiner was scared of the book thief's kiss. He must have longed for it so much. He must have loved her so incredibly hard. So hard that he would never ask for her lips again and would go to his grave without them.” 

“Of course, I'm being rude. I'm spoiling the ending, not only of the entire book, but of this particular piece of it. I have given you two events in advance, because I don't have much interest in building mystery. Mystery bores me. It chores me. I know what happens and so do you. It's the machinations that wheel us there that aggravate, perplex, interest, and astound me. There are many things to think of. There is much story.” 

I liked the writing, the characters and the plot, but it’s not a book for me because I didn’t enjoy it enough to rate it any higher than I have done. It’s the reason for the 3 stars, but I would recommend this book. I will definitely be checking out more of Markus Zusak’s books. 

Apparently there will be a film adaption to the Book Thief. I think it will make a great film.
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