Saturday, 11 January 2014

From pages to screen: The Book Thief

You know when you read or watch something and you can't stop yourself from sitting there and thinking "Ah yes. This. This is the one,"? And you can automatically and undoubtedly say that this particular book/movie/television show is now one of your favourites? 

For me, that book was none other than Markus Zusak's wonderfully entrancing novel The Book Thief. Now, I'm sure you've all heard about how magnificent The Book Thief is, but for those of you who have not yet devoured the 550 page book here is a quick little run-down. (Spoilers, obviously).

The story is narrated by Death (which makes things that much more interesting) and he begins to recount the story of Liesel Meminger who is travelling by train (on her way to be fostered) with her mother and brother. The entire novel is set in the fictional town of Molching, Germany in the late 1930's and early 1940's during World War 2. Along the way, Liesel's brother passes away and they hold a small funeral on the side of the tracks. Before Liesel and her mother continue their journey, Liesel picks up her first book titled "The Grave Diggers Hand Book".  Soon enough, Liesel arrives at her new home where she meets Hans and Rosa Huberman who will be her new parents. Hans is a tall man who plays the accordian which was given to him by an old war friend, Rosa is short, hot-tempered and foul-mouthed. Together, they already have two children, Hans Jr. (who they are not on good terms with) and Trudy (who often visits for holidays, though she does not seem close to either of her parents). She also meets her neighbour, a lemon-coloured hair boy named Rudy Steiner who is eight months older than Liesel and soon becomes her best friend. Throughout the book, Rudy is praised for his excellence in sports and academics and the Nazi's try and recruit him.  On her first day of school, Liesel is asked to write her name on the chalk board for her fellow classmates. This is where we learn that Liesel can't actually read yet as she can not write her name just an 'X'. Later on, Hans learns of this and begins to teach Liesel to read "The Grave Diggers Hand Book". 

A few months later, Liesel attends a Nazi book burning ceremony with Hans, Rudy and Rudy's father, Alex (before he is conscripted to serve in the war). The speech given at the ceremony about the essential cleansing of German society from the "indecent" and "corrupt" thoughts of literature angers Liesel. After the ceremony, Liesel stays back and manages to steal a book from the edge of the fire and takes it home. Little does she know that she has been spotted by the Mayor's wife, and one of Rosa's customers, Ilsa Hermann. One day Liesel takes the laundry to the Hermann residence for Rosa and once inside, Ilsa  shares her magnificent library with her. Liesel continues these trips to the Hermann residence until Ilsa's husband catches Liesel in the library and ends their encounters. This forces Liesel to begin 'borrowing' books the Ilsa's library, hence earning the name 'The Book Thief'. 

Liesel continues to 'borrow' books from the Hermann household as the Hubermann's begin to hide a young jewish man by the name of Max Vandenburg. Max dreams of being the "Jewish Fist Fighter", a boxer defeating none other than Hitler in the ring. Max's father saved Hans during the first world war, (he is also the man to give Hans his accordion) making Hans unable to turn Max away. As winter comes along Max moves down into the basement so he can move around a little without being seen. This leads to Max getting very ill and Liesel reads to him from the books she's borrowed. During this time, Rudy follows Liesel and discovers that she is stealing books. He soon finds out about Max and he promises not to tell anyone. He even dives into a freezing cold river to save the book Liesel has been writing in which Max gave her for Christmas (before he became ill). As the story continues Hans defends a Jewish man against an officer, which then forces Max to leave the household to prevent endangering the Hubermann family. Soon after Hans is conscripted to serve in the war, leaving Liesel and Rosa alone. Luckily, Hans returns home after serving in a dangerous air raid assignment.

The conclusion on the story begins with Death describing the souls of those living in Molching that he will be taking away. Liesel is down stairs in the basement where she happens to have fallen asleep reading, when Molching is bombed in an air raid where no siren warns the citizens to evacuate. Liesel is rescued only to discover her family has not been sparred from the bomb. The same goes for Rudy and his family (excluding Alex as he is still serving in the war). Liesel watches as Rudy is rescued from the rubble, barley alive as he is placed on the ground near Liesel. She scrambles over to him before he mentions that he loves her before dying in her arms. Liesel finally kisses Rudy, but he lays there lifeless. The Hermann's then drive into the devastation and Liesel runs to Ilsa who takes her in. Two years later, in 1945, Liesel is working in Alex Steiner's shop when none other than Max Vandenburg walks in. Death then begins his narration about how Liesel's life turn out. She lives till she's well in her 90's in Sydney Australia where she wrote books and raised a loving family.

Now if that small (possibly quite large) synopsis doesn't interest you, I don't know what will. The Book Thief  was recommended to my young fourteen year old self by my drama teacher. I was hesitant at first because books set in Nazi Germany really upset me (as I'm sure they do most people). When I opened the book and read the first page on that sunny afternoon after school, I was instantly hooked. I did not put that book down until I finished it. I stayed up until all hours, tears streaming down my face when I finally reached that final word. I had never read a book so wonderfully written and that was so engaging all the way through. I couldn't believe I'd found a book better than any from the Harry Potter series (which if you know me, that's a HUGE deal). I believe one of the reasons for me liking this book so much was because it was a book set in Nazi Germany, but it wasn't necessarily ABOUT Nazi Germany. It was about the magic of words and books, which Zusak obviously knows a lot about. 

Now here we are, the film adaption. I honestly believe the film was very well done. It's not as 'gritty' or 'real' as the book. The film has quite a fake feel about it and it is PG rated after all. The horrors I felt and 'experienced' in the book were not present in the film, which made it all a lot more bittersweet than heart breakingly sad. The four major differences I found within the film were; 

1. The Hubermann's have no other children: Hans jr. and Trudy are not mentioned once throughout the film. Sure, they aren't necessary for any major plot points, but it would have been nice to see them on the big screen.
2. Max Vandenburg is not "the Jewish fist fighter": There is no mention of Max's dream in the film. In the book, he shares his dream with Liesel and they bond over their mutual hatred for the f├╝hrer.
3. Hans' gives bread to a Jew: In the book, a Jew is being marched through Molching when Hans gives him some bread. This is not shown in the film, with Hans only defending the Jew with a much less violent outcome. Instead of being whipped, Hans only has to tell the officer his name. 
4.  Rudy learns about Max early: In the film adaptation, Rudy discovers Max whilst he is still living in the basement. I personally think this was a good idea as it brings Rudy and Liesel closer a lot sooner than in the book. 

All in all, the film is a pretty accurate adaption of the book. Sure, majority of the violence is no longer present, and the film gives off a fake vibe, but it's still an enjoyable film that will hopefully inspire many to read Zusak's wonderful novel.

That was possibly quite boring for many of you to read, but thank you for reading (if you made it till the end)!
Love, Maddie xx


  1. Hi Maddie!

    I loved your book review! I had not heard of "The Book Thief" as a novel or film, so it was nice to read everything with a clean slate, so to speak. I love how Rudy is first described as having lemon-colored hair. Too sweet. I even felt a little tear well up when learning of Rudy's tragic death- oh gosh did I really become attached to a character through a synopsis? Lol. I'm very interested to read more about the details of Liesel's life and experiences with Rudy and Max and the families!

    OH! I also loved reading the Harry Potter series and have yet to come across another series that I cherish as dearly. I read through both The Hunger Games and Divergent series, and although they were entertaining, I didn't feel connected to the characters like I did the Potter gang.

    I'm going to look for a copy of this book to download for my eReader! Thank you again for the suggestion. :)

    1. Hey Jenny! I firstly wanted to thank you for being active on our blog! It really means a lot and I know Tayla and I both really appreciate our opinion <3

      I really hope you enjoy The Book Thief as much as I did! I am yet to find a better series than Harry Potter (Divergent and The Hunger Games did not cut it for me either) but I really couldn't believe it when I discovered that I liked The Book Thief more as a stand alone book compared to any from Harry Potter :')

    2. Aww, it's my pleasure! I'm really enjoying what you girls have to say and I think you have bright voices that deserve to be heard! Maddie, I've really loved seeing your posts on IG/Twitter since we "met" online and now you too, Tayla! :D ****HUGS****

    3. AHHHHH! You are just the sweetest! ****HUGS ALL ROUND****

  2. Aaay I saw this a while back but I wanted to wait until I watched the film to read and comment. All I really want to say is that you've clearly summed up how I felt about the adaptation better that I could have ever through words haha It's an amazing adaptation and obviously books will always hit the spot better but it was still such a sweet and emotional film. I honestly can't get over how good Liesel and Rudy were, especially for their age. (heck they could have just been standing there and still be perfect because their appearance were pretty spot on too!)
    I totally understand what you meant about the bittersweet ending. I did tear up however when she went to see Rudy and also when Max returned in all his awesomeness.

    1. Costa! I only just saw this message now! (How on earth did I miss it!?). Thanks man, that was a great idea! Yay! I'm so glad you agree with me on the adaption! I know! Their acting skills are phenomenal, they are going to go far! I got a little emotional during the part as well :') hahaha