The Book Thief (Book Review) by Markus Zusak

I think the words that would most certainly describe the book for me would be: devastatingly beautiful.

The author has narrated the story of young girl in the times of war in Germany—a child who grows up watching the death of her brother, abandonment from her mother and restarting of another life at Himmel Street, only to be torn apart again by the death of the people who she has loved more than herself.

Despite the story being narrated by Death itself, the novel is never suffocating with the fear of the inevitable—the death, unlike many of the other wartime books that constantly grip the reader with a constant, uneasy suffocating vibe. Rather, it tells a tale of small acts of happiness—of playing accordion, of rolling cigarettes, of playing soccer in muddy Himmel Street, of friendship and book-thievery, of calling Saumensch and Saukerlto your loved ones, of the wagers of getting kiss for a reward, of secrets of hiding Jews and unveiling it to your best friend on the branch of a tree; of growing up and understanding your emotions and the moment of accepting that your best friend may also be your lover.

The Book Thief is a story of veiled, unspoken expressions that Leisel has for her foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubberman; her best friend, Rudy Steinner; the secret of Hubberman household, Max; and Ilsa Hermann—her savior and Frau Holtzapfel—who would listen to her reading.

It is a novel that almost had me crying when Leisel saw the corpses of her Papa and Mama. But it turned almost black when Leisel saw Rudy, lying lifeless. Leisel was late, too late to express her feelings for her best friend, her next-door neighbor, her partner-in-crime and her lover.

It’s a book that one would want to read again—at least once, in one’s life time.


The Almond Tree- Book Review

The book came out in 2012 and my sister won it from the author herself on Goodreads soon after its release. However, I did not know what the novel was about. Later, as soon as I came to know about the subject of the novel, I looked forward to reading it. And I must say, the sincerity and honesty with which the book is written, comes out effortlessly in every page of the writing.

Michelle Cohen Corasanti, (the author) is a Jewish American, who provides a blunt perspective of Israeli atrocities and Palestinian sufferings throughout the book, while at the same time, she presents the other side of the picture where Arabs and Jews can eat, work and celebrate together as human beings. Such a point of view coming from a Jewish author is almost rare these days. With her pen, she has beautifully told a tale of a suffering of a Palestinian family, narrated by Ichmad (Ahmad) Mehmood, a seven year old genius who soon becomes the head of the family and has to make decisions that not change the lives of his family members but his own too, despite the disapprovals of his mother and brother Abbas.

However, it is not just a story of a poor Arab boy trying to help his family. It is a tale of honest love, and compassion, of hard work and devotion for a cause, of fear and hatred and of objects that fuel hatred. It is a book that tells you about the Arab culture, their cuisine and their celebrations, where one cannot help but smile as they celebrate their little ceremonies. It a story of love, that needs no boundaries of race, religion, age or nationality.

History is also a major part of the making of the book. Starting from 1955, the author has genuinely covered all the major events in Arab-Israeli conflict, issue of Jewish settlements (and the indifference of the US and the UN) and the blockade of Gaza.

My favorite part of the book is the heated discussion between Ichmad and his brother Abbas (towards the end of the book) where each one of them is trying to reason as to why he is right and the other, wrong. Ichmad’s point of view is plain, “Think of yourself, Abbas, your family. I can provide you with a nice life, a safe life, one without suffering. A future of your family. Your sons and grandchildren can get the education they deserve.”

But Abbas is right in his own way (and most Palestinians agree), “You’re different from me. I want to do something for my people, but you know as well as I do that Israel wants a Jewish state for Jews only, across all of historic Palestine. And in your country, the Jews determine the Middle Eastern policy. Israel knows it can do whatever it wants because Jews in America will support it.”

Thus, it a battle between choosing better for yourself and choosing a life for the greater good of Palestinians. The odds are high in both circumstances, and one has to see who wins in the end or if, one wins at all.

It is an untold story of Palestine and its dwellers—deserving to be heard—told by a Jewish American, narrated by a Muslim Palestinian, advocating its case for peace between Arabs and Jews, so that the world gets a chance to see a clearer and bigger picture of the conflict and its implications it has had for decades.


(April 3, 2014)