Tuesday, 5 July 2011


"Liesel would sit each day with her hands between her knees in the long legs of daylight. She wanted none of those days to end, and it was always with disappointment that she watched the darkness stride forward."

I find it difficult to say what struck me most about The Book Thief. I find it difficult to single out, to isolate or to disentangle the story's threads to illuminate one, perfect strand. So I won't. Instead, I'll talk about the many, many things that struck me--they are, after all, the things that stayed with me.

First? Liesel and Hans. I found them rather beautiful. What Hans gave Liesel, in reading, was virtuous. It was an escape and a form of empowerment. It was beautiful, so absolutely beautiful, to see her confidence grow and her spirit strengthen with this opening of a door. With it, she could learn about the world and about morals and about judgement. With it, she could distract and escape and shade herself--and others--from as much of the war as possible. Yet this power, I don't think, would have existed without the love behind it--behind those first, light days of learning. During those, it was less about the words and their education and more about the solace and the comfort he offered to a very lonely child. Because of him and his unrelenting support in the night, she vowed to make him proud.

I think a lot of Liesel's friendship with Max was based, too, upon her connection to Hans. Sure, I think she always wanted to give back her gift of reading--which she did, repeatedly, in those stone-cold basements and bunkers--but I think the relationship she forged with Max had an extra foundation. She saw the guilt Hans felt, the guilt and debt he felt he owed to Max, to Max's family and to his own, and wanted, somehow, to remedy it herself.

Learning to read empowered Liesel--it armed her with new weapons and choices. But those little lessons Hans gave--those stolen moments between Rosa's wrath and against their poverty--armed her with a much greater repertoire of knowledge. Knowledge of emotion and love and humanity--knowledge that her previous circumstances had so stolen from her.

Those pages without Hans--those pages when he was on his own, away from his family unit--so often felt unbearable to me. Liesel had the words, then--and accurately and cleverly and proudly so--but it was obvious, then, that so much was missing from them. As though, perhaps, the print had faded, a little. There was greater strain and greater effort needed.

There is so, so much more I could say--and that is just about Hans.

But it's over to you, now. Can we talk?


  1. love your blog ;)

  2. interesting. i may have to check this out!