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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

From Book to Movie: The Book Thief

It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.

Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.

DISCLAIMER: This is full of spoilers. For both the movie and the book. I ramble and bit. But go ahead... read it anyway.

The Book:

What can I say about this book? I finally caved and read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak early this year, and I was overwhelmed with how amazing it was. A lot of trusted bloggers and friends had read this book and had nothing but good things to say about it. However, I am usually reserved when it comes to the hype that surrounds books,  because I dislike being disappointed. Therefore, The Book Thief sat on my shelf for years (seriously) before I finally picked it up. And I am kicking myself for not reading it sooner.

I loved this book. There are so many reasons why I loved it. First, the writing. It had been a long time since I felt completely immersed in a story- as I was reading The Book Thief I felt like Markus Zusak's words were a comforting blanket wrapped around me, I felt surrounded. The beauty of his writing is something I am struggling to express.

This story is not a light read as it takes place during the Second World War and the Holocaust. But what's interesting about this novel is that it takes a look at the war from the perspective of the Germans. This is not something I have experienced at a reader prior to this novel. The majority of the novels that I have read that focus on this war are seen through the Jewish lens. I appreciated this new look. The fear the German civilians lived with, the hunger, the poverty, how difficult it was to take a stand against the Fuhrer and if you were not a part of the Nazi party it greatly affected your quality of life, were not things I would have considered. Also, The Book Thief is narrated by death. This is an essential part of the story. Death's voice really enhanced the tone of the book, and made it an enriched experience.

Quickly, there are a number of powerful relationships in The Book Thief. Liesel (our protagonist) is a lovely character and she certainly has gotten the short straw. But her relationship with her foster father (Hans Hubermann) is beautiful. They love each other and it's so special. I also want to quickly talk about Liesel and Max (the Jewish boy, the Hubermann's are hiding).  They also develop a really strong and intense relationship and it tugged at my heart.

Overall, The Book Thief is an amazing novel, and I think that everyone needs to read it.

The Movie:

Now, I was so concerned with being spoiled by this trailer that I didn't watch it until after I read the book. Which is funny. Once I had completed the book I was really excited about the film. Because of how I felt reading the book.

Initially I did not really have an opinion about who was cast is in the film. But, I think they did a very good job in casting Geoffrey Rush as Hans Hubermann, I thought he was perfect for the role. He wasn't who I pictured as I was reading The Book Thief, however, while watching the film I found that his portrayal of Hans was spot on. I also really liked Sophie Nélisse as Liesel. Sophie's Liesel wasn't as snarky as book Liesel, but I still think she did a good job.

I watched this movie with my sister who hadn't read the book (my sister doesn't read), and it was interesting to watch The Book Thief  with someone who didn't know the story. It's a pretty long movie at just over two hours, and unfortunately, it got really boring. Because my sister hasn't read the book and she was often confused during the film and didn't know what was going on and why. And because I was familiar with the plot I found myself explaining back story and context to her that the film adaptation failed to do.

In all honesty, I did not enjoy the film adaptation of The Book Thief. There were so many amazing things about the book that failed to make it into the film. As I previously mentioned, the book is narrated by Death, whose voice makes the reading of The Book Thief a really profound experience. His voice is all but absent in the film. What I also found lacking was the depth that was found in the interactions between Liesel and Hans Hubermann. They had this really amazing and inspiring relationship and it's not nearly as intense in the movie- they are very reserved and almost distant in the movie.

My biggest hang up about this movie is how off the movie makers were when it came to capturing the essence of the relationships Liesel has with a number of the characters. With Rudy, with Rosa, with the mayor's wife even with Max. They didn't capture what books meant to Liesel and how they influenced her life. Movie makers just missed the mark on this one (for me at least).

Overall, I would suggest to simply read The Book Thief. Don't think you've experienced this story by seeing the movie alone. Because you are truly missing out.

~Happy Reading Everyone!

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  1. I haven't read The Book Thief (which is why I didn't go watch the movie either), but I guess now I'll just keep my eyes on the book only! It's such a classic, can't believe how I haven't gotten to it yet =P

    Alicia @ Summer Next Top Story

  2. Like Alicia, I haven't read The Book Thief yet, even though I've owned it for a couple of months now. And that's also the reason I haven't seen the movie either. Both my dad and brother have watched the movie and said they LOVED it. It's about time I get on that train!


  3. It's interesting to read your thoughts, Sara, because you read the book first before watching the movie. As someone who hasn't read the book but watched the movie, I actually really liked the movie. I'm sure though that once I read the book, I'll love the book a lot more than the movie.

  4. I haven't written my review for this book yet, but I totally agree with everything you said. I don't know how I am going to put into words how beautiful Zusak's writing is either.

    Haven't seen the movie yet... I've been a bit reluctant to because the book was so beautiful that I had a feeling the movie would be a letdown. And to hear you say that they didn't get the character relationships right and that Death was missing?? Those were the things that MADE the book!! Awww.

  5. I am looking forward to this movie. Honestly I haven't read the book since 2007 I think? So I have probably forgotten a lot of the plot. I am looking forward though to seeing the film!

  6. I just finished the book last week and have really struggled to express how amazing i found it :) iv become slightly obsessed with nazi Germany type books having just come back from a school trip to berlin and krakow which was Incredible by the way. Since then i havnt been able to get enough of books set around that time. What really struck me about this was the new perspective, not just of the Germans but of death himself. I did enjoy the movie which I watched after id finished the book but i found it really lacked backstory and explaining to some elements of the story. I also found Rudy's death scene cliché and disliked deaths voice haha but i suppose there isnt much that can be done with that.


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"So, please, oh please, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away, and in its place you can install, a lovely bookcase on the wall."
— Roald Dahl