The Book Thief was one of the most beautifully written stories I have read. Not only was the story moving, but the narrative style felt new and fresh, and the characters real. I began recommending this book to people when I was still only a few chapters in, and I don’t think I will stop recommending it for a while yet.
The Book Thief takes place in WWII Germany, where a nine-year-old girl called Liesel is sent to live with foster parents, The Hubermanns, in Himmel Street. With her father and brother death, and her mother a communist, it is unlikely that she will ever see her family again. All around her, Nazis have taken grip of the nation and her neighbours, but within her own home things are different. The Hubermanns take in a Jewish fist-fighter who is hiding from the Nazi regime, and try their best to keep him safe. Meanwhile, Liesel and her friend Rudy take to stealing in order to survive life in their poverty-stricken town. Liesel, however, is uninterested in stealing food, and instead turns to books, which she treasures above all else. Although the world around her is war-torn and in crisis, Liesel is content with her family and books, but it shall not be so for long.
I loved reading Liesel’s story and about her relationships with the other characters. In particular, I enjoyed reading about her experiences with the different books that she came into contact with, whether legitimately or as a result of her stealing. It definitely makes this book suitable for all you bookworms out there! I also liked the way that Zusak highlights Liesel’s books as an escape for, not only her, but her friends and family as well as she reads her books aloud during the air raids. Also, I loved how the books brought her and Max together in a strong friendship, as they read together and write each other stories or descriptions of their lives and the world. However, although the theme of books and words that runs through The Book Thief was a major, central theme, it did not overshadow the story. I was still eager to find out whether Max would survive the war, whether Rudy would win the race, and whether the mayor’s wife would overcome her depression. In a magical way, Markus Zusak managed to take a little girl’s story and passion for books and use it to weave her story together with various other people in her town.
One of the most fascinating things about this book, which makes it stand out from the crowd, is its narrator. The Book Thief is narrated by Death itself. Although one might assume that death, if personified, would be a greedy, cold person, Zusak in The Book Thief offers a different Death. In this book, Death is a caring, compassionate narrator, who tries to gently offer release to the souls that are dying throughout this war, and who watches over Liesel like a parent over the course of her life. Further, making the narrator Death means that many of the passages in the book about humanity, mortality, and war did not feel out of place as they could easily have coming from a child narrator. It also meant that we could be given little snippets about the fates of the characters that a first-person narration from one of the characters would not have been able to provide, such as where a person’s life took them, or what a person was thinking or saying in their final moments. Above all, I liked Zusak made Death seem like a gentle creature, who does not relish in war but is pained by it. It is a fresh perspective compared to the common view that Death takes who it wants. Death in The Book Thief regrets many of the souls that s/he has to take, and as a narrator highlights many of the most beautiful shows of humanity in the book.
Overall, I think that The Book Thief is a masterpiece of a novel. Although the story is about a little girl, it is enough to make a grown person cry, as I did when I reached the end of the book. It is an emotional rollercoaster, beautifully crafted by Markus Zusak and I advise you to put it at the top of your ‘To-Read’ list if you haven’t read it already.