The Book Thief by Markus Zusak ~Goodreads~
Published by Black Swan in 2008
Paperback edition 560 pages ~Book Depository~
Narrated by death and set in Nazi Germany, during a time where the narrator states was very busy. It tells the story of a young girl, Liesel and her relationship with her foster parents, the residents of her neighbourhood and also a young Jewish man who hides in her basement during the escalation of World War II.
Unusually, Zusak uses Death as the narrator in The Book Thief as he reflects on the lives he has taken he tells us of a little German girl called Liesel who is orphaned and taken into the home of Mr and Mrs Hubermann who come to love her as their own daughter. Hans teaches Liesel to read from a single book on gravediggers and from here and throughout she is known as the book thief as she obtains various books throughout the novel. Liesel’s story is very much a coming of age and the friendships she has with her neighbor Rudy but also a Jewish man named Max, who the Hubermann’s soon end up hiding him in the basement from the clutches of the Germans.
Liesel isn’t sure why this is, but she knows she must keep it secret and the moments her and Max share together is rather magical. I won’t spoil these for you because they really get the tears flowing.
Death is visioned as a hooded figure floating around the Earth taking souls from bodies, a lonely figure that is haunted by the amount it possesses during this dark and distinct part of human history. Markus Zusak gives Death another side to his personality, and at times it seems like a warm light- perhaps a sign of peace. Death even has a sense of humour, a bit dry for some but exactly how I would like to imagine Death to be. Death was almost a comfort in this book as an end to the suffering that was endured.
My overall thoughts are that Zusak takes a very dark part of history and brings to it a new light. There are highs and lows of course, but he painted a different to picture than what some might have expected and I appreciate this. Despite the obvious ending we aren’t clear as to how these events arrive but it was an emotional roller-coaster for sure. A very powerful read that made me think that not everything is bad, even if it appears to be because there’s always hope and its people that create this. I couldn’t put this book down, and I’m eager to get hold of more from Zusak.