The Book Thief is a moving story by Markus Zusak about a young girl named Liesel Meminger, living in Germany during World War II, who is sent to live with her foster parents Hans and Rosa, and how all their lives are affected by each other. The book is narrated by Death. Although this story sounds depressing (and it is sad) the story is told with compassion, hope, and love. A thanks to Blogs Of A Bookaholic for having this on her to be read pile, otherwise don’t think I would have ever come across this book.
Liesel is on the train to go live with her foster parents. The train ride is doubly sad since not only is she being sent away by her mother, but her brother dies on the train ride there. While her brother is buried, Liesel is compelled to steal a book from the gravesite, even though she cannot read. This theft truly starts Liesel on the journey to her new life and her new persona as a book thief. When Liesel arrives at her new home, she quickly bonds with her foster-father, Hans. Hans is a kind compassionate soul who stays next to Liesel as she sleeps and is there when she wakes up from her nightmares. Hans takes the time to teach Liesel how to read and this endears him even more to Liesel, striking a strong bond between father and child. Rosa, although rough and tough on the outside loves Liesel just as much, as vice versa.
This is, of course, Nazi Germany. A time when the country is full of hatred and hard times. Due to Hans’ past and a promise he made, a visitor comes to the family home. The visitor is a Jewish man, Max, who asks for help, which Hans cannot refuse. Even though this visitor puts the family in great danger, they welcome him into their home. As Liesel warms up to Max they too strike a bond. Max lives through Liesel since he cannot go outside due to fear of death. Liesel is the bright spot in Max’s life and he also helps with her reading. Inspired by her stories of the outside world and the bond they build up, Max gives Liesel a moving present one day. The way Zusak portrays this present was one of the most moving moments in this book (and this book is full of moving moments). It was one of my favorite parts – it really shows the connections people can make and how a story can mean the world to a person.
Liesel’s close friend Rudy is also a bright spot. He’s faithful to Liesel and is there when she needs him as well as she is there for him. There is so much to this book it’s hard to capture it all. From the mayor and his wife to the neighbor who spits on the family door, a wealth of characters. The story told by Death is done with compassion, emotion, and care. Not what one would normally associate with Death. Zusak has Death narrate in a way that the reader knows Death is a good person who is tortured by his relationship with humans. He cares for them so much, and that is a problem for him. He deals with it in the most caring way he can, by being there at the end and making sure the soul is taken in a compassionate way.
Although this book is solemn, bleak, sad, full of death, and hardship, it is also full of hope, cheer, and shows the best and worst sides of humanity. I highly recommend this book to anyone. It’s classified as a young adult book but it’s a YA book for the masses. The Book Thief is not one anyone should pass up.