Some books transcend everything, don’t they? They change the way you think. The way you write. The way you see the world. They change everything. It gets to the point where you feel incomplete without that book living on your nightstand staring at you every night. When you see other people reading the book you get jealous that they are spending time with your best friends among the pages, cradling the spine like you cradle those characters in your heart. The book has become so completely yours and so completely you that you simultaneously want to share your love for it and keep every single copy in the known world under your bed for yourself.
This is The Book Thief. The untouchable, perfect, heartbreaking, groundbreaking work of art that changed everything for me.
I read this book for the first time when I was about 15. I was immediately pulled in to this world as I watched Death walk alongside these characters and sit by their side in the snowy streets of Molching, Germany. I was immediately in love. I had never read words like this before in my life. The way death described things. The way he saw the world. I wanted to stand with him as he told me his stories, to see the world in the colors he saw it in.
DEATH AND CHOCOLATE
First the colors.
Then the humans.
That’s usually how I see things.
Or at least, how I try.
***Here is a small fact***
You are going to die.
I loved the voice Death had. The tired, dry, sarcastic wit. The love he feels for Liesel. For Rudy. For them all. Death’s narration makes this book. The way he describes colors. Every time I reread this book I find a new description to love. The first one I underlined? The eyes of a dead pilot the color of coffee stains.
I’ve never seen description like this. It’s an amazing feeling to pick up a book, not realizing how different you will be after you read it. This book changed my writing entirely. I began going description crazy and I saw the world around me twist and turn while I read some passages over and over again. I had never been so taken by a book.
When I got to the last fifty pages or so, I slowed down. I had tears cascading down my cheeks and I felt like I would never be able to breathe normally ever again. It took me two hours to pull myself through that mountain range of rubble and I emerged on the other side tear-stained, exhausted, and wholly swept away. It still takes me about two and a half hours to read those last pages. Those are some of the most gorgeously brutal words I have ever read.
I’ve never felt so attached to characters. They feel like family. Because the author spends so much time letting you get to know these characters, you cannot help falling in love with them. He tells you stories that really have no consequence in the grand scale of the story. They don’t move plot forward per se, but they make your heart ache for these people. Rudy with his lemon hair, Liesel’s love of words and hours spent on the floor of a secret library, Hans breathing with his accordion, Rosa’s hidden moments of tender love with Hans, Max sweating fear every hour of the day. Lord, I can’t even type about this book without getting tears in my eyes.
This book gives me the most visceral reaction of any book I’ve ever read. I feel my entire body pulsing when I read it and when I even think about the words. If I ever feel the need to cry, I can think of a scene in the book between Max and Liesel and in seconds glass tears will fall. If I need a laugh, I think of Liesel and Rudy saumensching with each other in the school yard or along the Amper River. Even the name of my blog comes from this book. Liesel reports the weather to Max one morning so the hidden Jew can have a small taste of the sky.
“The sky is blue today, Max, and there is a big long cloud, and it’s stretched out, like a rope. At the end of it, the sun is like a yellow hole…”
Max, at that moment, knew that only a child could have given him a weather report like that. On the wall, he painted a long, tightly knotted rope with a dripping yellow sun at the end of it, as if you could dive right into it. On the ropy could, he drew two figures- a thin girl and a withered Jew- and they were walking, arms balanced, toward that dripping sun. Beneath the picture, he wrote the following sentence.
***THE WALL-WRITTEN WORDS OF MAX VANDENBURG***
It was a Monday, and they walked on a tightrope to the sun.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about why this book has affected me so much; enough to lead me to read it once a year, each year highlighting and underlining more and more of my beloved well-loved copy. (I would read it more but I physically and emotionally don’t think I could handle it.)
I think at my core, I connected with Liesel and her love of words. Her inspiring, motivating, life changing dedication to reading and writing and taking control of her own world through words. The power of language is a theme that is so central in this book and that is also a big part of my own life. Nothing moves me more than the power of language and watching this little girl fall in love with words reminds me of myself discovering words and using them as a weapon, a crutch, an embrace, a friend. I see so much of me in Liesel. I see me in her feeling of displacement and her deep love for those she cares most about. Her quiet watchfulness and powerful soul. I love that little girl.
I love all of those characters. I am in love with Max Vandenburg. Hans and Rosa are my second parents. Rudy. To quote Death:
He does something to me, that boy. Every time. It’s his only detriment. He steps on my heart. He makes me cry.
This book kills me. This book steps on my heart. This book makes me cry.
I was so nervous when I heard this book was going to become a movie. Actually, screw nervous. I was livid. I was in my bathtub reading the book when I decided to look at Tumblr tags, hoping to find some pretty fan art. Instead I found a cast list and filming locations. My heart burst open. No, I thought, this is The Book Thief. Not the Movie Thief. Where will the words be? No. These are my characters. They’ll have to leave out so much. No. No. No.
I remained furious for months. I got protective and angry. I didn’t want people to start claiming this book that was my lifeblood as their own after seeing a movie and never holding these characters in their hands. I wanted the movie to be done right, to do justice to these words that are so ingrained into me. I didn’t want people who I felt didn’t deserve this book to be able to see the movie and cry. They don’t know these characters like me, they don’t deserve to sit and cry with me. They will cry because of the Holocaust, I will cry because I’ll be watching my family and my heart on the screen.
Then I saw the trailer. And lost it completely. It blew me away. I was crying within the first three seconds. I was so happy because it looked exactly like what I always pictured, but also different enough to let me keep my images of these people and places alive in my brain. I calmed down with being so militant about this book being mine. My perception of this book and the meaning I have assigned to it will always be mine and nobody will ever touch that. But now the world will see why I go so crazy over this. They will get to meet my loves.
I am so scared to see this movie. If watching the trailers is any inclination, I will be a horrible sobbing mess the entire time. I went to a movie last weekend and saw the trailer for the first time on the big screen and immediately started weeping, much to the embarrassment of my sister, brother in law, grandmother, and fellow movie-goers. My mom flat out refuses to see the movie with me because I won’t be able to stop crying throughout. That’s alright, I’d rather brave it alone.
This was a whirlwind to write. I’m once again tear stained and exhausted; it’s like I just finished reading the book. I love this book to pieces, with every beat of my heart and I am so happy to share my love of this book with you all.
I love this post! Been meaning to get the book for a while now, and after reading your post I can't wait to get a hold of the book.
love love love this book! excited for the movie. xoxoxoxo
the well-traveled wife
Yes! Can't wait to hear what you think of the movie. I will also be in tears!
"I remained furious for months. I got protective and angry. I didn't want people to start claiming this book that was my lifeblood as their own after seeing a movie and never holding these characters in their hands. I wanted the movie to be done right, to do justice to these words that are so ingrained into me. I didn't want people who I felt didn't deserve this book to be able to see the movie and cry. They don't know these characters like me, they don't deserve to sit and cry with me. They will cry because of the Holocaust, I will cry because I'll be watching my family and my heart on the screen. "
I love that, and understand 100%! I've never read this book, because I heard something about rape once and it scared me off? But your description makes me reconsider.
I love your words, as always.
his little lady
Oh, I've seen previews for this movie and thought it looked so good! I had no idea it was a book though! Definitely wanting to give this one a read now!
I've never heard of this book or the movie, but wow! You paint such a beautiful picture of it that I must read it. Sounds right up my alley.
p.s. Found your blog through The Daily Simple.
Can't wait for you to read it 🙂 I hope you love it.
Thanks for visiting my page 🙂 and thanks for telling me how you found me! I always like knowing that.
This review in itself is beautiful to read! This is always one of those books that I've seen sitting there on a shelf in a bookstore but never really been interested enough to pick up, that's why I'm glad I'vre read this review, now I feel like I'm missing out because I haven't read it.
When is the film out, I need to read it before then, otherwise it skews your perspective of how things could have looked.
p.s. thank you for the comment on my blog, I'm following you now by the way, when I read this book I will let you know!
Beautiful post! I love this book and can't wait for the movie!