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nataliya

nataliya

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.” 
― Stephen King, On Writing.

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"If you want to know what a man's like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals."— J.K. Rowling

The Book Thief - Markus Zusak Wow. Words cannot describe how much I loved this book, what impact it had on me. But, like Liesel, words is all I have, so I will have to try.This is a lyrical, poignant, heartbreaking, soul-shattering story disjointedly told by a nearly-omniscient, fascinated by humans narrator - Death. (***I must confess that I kept imagining Death as the small-caps speaking Grim Reaper from Pratchett's Discworld, baffled by humans and loving cats and curry. Don't judge me - I needed a glimpse of fun in the bleakness of Zusak's story.*** ) Death has plenty to keep it busy, as the story is set in Nazi Germany during World War II. ""Please believe me when I tell you that I picked up each soul that day as if it were newly born. I even kissed a few weary, poisoned cheeks. I listened to their last, gasping cries. Their vanishing words. I watched their love visions and freed them from their fear.""And yet he becomes strangely fascinated with one particular human, the titular book thief, a young German girl Liesel Meminger, whose childhood is marked by war, who learns to read and love and treasure books, who has her small rebellions against the force of society, who learns to love and be loved. Who has to learn to lose what she loves. Because the world is baffling, because it is a cruel place, because often it tries to stomp out love and beauty."I guess humans like to watch a little destruction. Sand castles, houses of cards, that's where they begin. Their great skills is their capacity to escalate."The book is beautifully surreal, with the masterfully written language reflecting the alien, non-understandable, strangely fascinating nature of the narrator - Death. It is the mix of colors and strange metaphors, semi-dictionary entries and frequent strange asides, with skipping time, with complete disregard for spoilers. "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 will note the strangest things, ruminate about the weirdest subjects, and casually in the middle of a lyrical passage, omnisciently will tell us that terrible things are about to occur. It is its job to know, after all. And this prescience does not soften the blows when they finally come; it only brings anticipatory dread and loving appreciation for things and people while they still ARE."Years ago, when they'd raced on a muddy field, Rudy was a hastily assembled set of bones, with a jagged, rocky smile. In the trees this afternoon, he was a giver of bread and teddy bears. He was a triple Hitler Youth athletics champion. He was her best friend. And he was a month from his death."Love. Beauty. And books. This is what the story set against the terrible backdrop of war is about. Zusak accomplished a difficult feat - making me ache for the children of the enemy, the children and people of Nazi Germany, because even when caught in the middle of destruction, even ending up on different sides of artificial barricades people are still people, still deserving of love, still beautiful.This book is the ode to those who kept their humanity in the middle of war, who were so human that nothing could ever change that. Rudy Steiner, the boy with the "hair the color of lemons", who has so much love and integrity and life that I cried myself to sleep over his fate that Death so casually and cruelly revealed to us, who was by Liesel's side since the beginning of their friendship - "A snowball in the face is surely the perfect beginning to a lasting friendship." - Rudy, who dreamed about the kiss from Liesel until the end of his bright and too-short life."She leaned down and looked at his lifeless face and Liesel kissed her best friend, Rudy Steiner, soft and true on his lips. He tasted dusty and sweet. He tasted like regret in the shadows of trees and in the glow of the anarchist's suit collection. She kissed him long and soft, and when she pulled herself away, she touched his mouth with her fingers... She did not say goodbye. She was incapable, and after a few more minutes at his side, she was able to tear herself from the ground. It amazes me what humans can do, even when streams are flowing down their faces and they stagger on.""He does something to me, that boy. Every time. It’s his only detriment. He steps on my heart. He makes me cry."Hans and Rosa Hubermann, who possessed so much integrity and courage, who became real parents to Liesel, who risked everything for what they thought was right. Max Vandenburg, the Jewish fistfighter, who dreamed of battling Hitler and gave Liesel the perfect gift with everything he had."[...] Papa, you saved me. You taught me to read. No one can play like you. I'll never drink champagne. No one can play like you.""Make no mistake, the woman had a heart. She had a bigger one that people would think. There was a lot in it, stored up, high in miles of hidden shelving. Remember that she was the woman with the instrument strapped to her body in the long, moon-slit night.""And Liesel herself, lost and broken, but finding comfort and strength in family, friends, and books. Liesel, who learns more about the cold cruelty of this world than most children should ever know. Liesel, who learns to read from the Gravedigger's handbook, who rescues the book from fire, who would rather steal books than food, who is not afraid to show kindness in the face of very real threat, who finally gives Rudy that overdue kiss, who fascinates even Death itself. All of them remained human despite the circumstances, despite the pressure to do otherwise, despite anything. And I love them for that.This is a wonderful, lyrical, surreal, excellent book that broke my heart into tiny little pieces and yet gave me hope that even in the worst of times we can find beauty. 5 stars is not enough, but this is all I can give. "I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right."-----------------DISCLAIMER: This is the first review that I've wrote after working four 14-hour days in a row followed by endless reading of textbooks and paperwork, all sore from endless and painful retracting in surgery, having composed this review in my head as a means to not pass out from hunger in the endless surgery. So if something in it seems incoherent - that's why.