When I jumped in the driver's seat of my rental car on that bright, but sorrow filled morning, I had no idea where I was going, how long I would be there, or that I would find myself perusing aisle upon aisle of a book shop looking for a special kind of book; a book that would transport my soul far, far away from the place that I currently found myself. In hindsight, there was no other book that I could have reached for on that day. Really, no other book could compare. No other book could hold within its pages the power to make me feel someone else's pain so profoundly. To be able to experience, again, the anguish that is only experienced when a loss is so great, so all encompassing. I would later learn that The Book Thief not only stole that which belonged to someone else, but that this particular thief could also give back by bringing solace to those who are suffering, as I suffered and to a far greater extent the anguish that Liesel Meminger surely suffered as the main character in The Book Thief. To compare our lives would appear to trivialize a time in history that I pray will never be repeated, a time that Liesel managed to live through, while someone more frail may have taken their own life.
But I did not know any of this on that particular day, what I did know is that I wanted only to escape, to get in my car and just keep driving. That if I drove far enough and for long enough, that the pain would be blown from my soul, much like the loose strands of hair reaching across my face as the wind forced itself through my car window. Not unlike the frail, but persistent hands of one determined to play a game of tug-o-war, in spite of my refusal to play.
I drove and I drove. I would keep on driving until I reached the ocean, the only place that could give me any hope of solace from the turmoil. I found I had reached Torquay and even then I continued to drive until I came to the edge of the ocean and it was there that I found the strength to walk. I continued to walk until I had covered miles and miles of sandy beach, and with each step many tiny grains of sand would walk with me as they found a new crevice to fill within my sneakers. I walked until I could walk no further and then I sank to the ground and let the tears fall.
If this were a Hollywood movie this is where the scene would end, most likely with the closing lines 'The End' moving from left to right across the blackened screen. However, life does not allow us such finality, not for those of us who are left behind to mourn. In time I found the strength to evenually leave behind the comfort of the beach only to find myself wandering around the local shops, none of which held my interest. Nothing did, until I stumbled upon the book shop. To be perfectly honest, I find the task of physically walking around a book store to be quite taxing and can only surmise that it was fate that enabled me to do so on this, of all days. I decided that I was searching for a book, however, the title and the author were elusive to be until I found it and after searching for what seemed like hours, without success, I turned and there on the shelf sat The Book Thief, seemingly challenging me to purchase it - and I did.
Now I must add that although I have an image of the American printing, it was the cover on the Australian printing that aroused my interest. It was the more haunting image with the snow covered scene and the cloaked individual that enticed me to purchase this book. I feel that the Australian cover is a more accurate depiction of the plot within its pages. It was this image that caused me to come face to face with the unfortunate character of Death that is deeply ingrained through out this book; a character I am all too familiar with.
Although I initially began to read The Book Thief in June, the timing was not right and it would be the beginning of October before I found myself reaching for it, wiping the dust from the cover and finding myself in a place where I was able to be engulfed in the lives of Liesel, Hans, Max and the other special characters that lined Himmel Street, and the pages of The Book Thief.
'I am haunted by humans' - The Book Thief