Penguin Random House 2005
THIS IS THE TALE OF THE BOOK THIEF,
AS NARRATED BY DEATH.
AND WHEN DEATH TELLS A STORY,
YOU REALLY HAVE TO LISTEN.
It’s just a small story really – about, amongst other things:
Some Fanatical Germans
A Jewish Fist Fighter
And Quite a Lot Of Thievery.
I realise I am extremely late to The Book Thief party and even now several things conspired to make me finally pick this book up.
- I watched the film with my son and we agreed it was a book we would both like to read.
- The publication and marketing of Marcus Zusak’s latest book – Bridge of Clay kept this book in the forefront of my mind.
- I mentioned on Instagram that I wanted to read The Book Thief and I found myself in an Instagram readalong… and actually what better way to prompt someone to read a book!
Despite having seen only glowing reviews of this book, there was a definite reluctance on my part to pick this book up and I am struggling to pinpoint why – the size, yes it is a big book, my Anniversary Edition runs at over 550 pages so not a small book. And I am daunted by big books – despite usually finding myself most impressed once I take the plunge into these mighty tomes, the theme -well I like historical fiction set in WW2 so that didn’t put me off, so I don’t know why this avid reader didn’t get around to reading this book until 13 years after publication ( hangs head in shame).
But here we are, and what a beautifully written, accessible and engaging book The Book Thief proved to be. Despite it’s harrowing theme and its morbid narrator the book reads as a young adult book should and I would have no hesitation sharing this book with either of my children, my youngest being 11. Set in Germany during WW2, evacuee Liesel is placed with foster carers Rosa and Hans, Rosa is fierce and strict, with a warm core that emerges as the story progresses, while Hans is a gentle, kind and generous soul; someone special. Living in the street with the Hubermanns are a number of key players, I won’t mention them here, but Rudy, who becomes Liesel’s best friend deserves an acknowledgement, his friendship with Liesel is the sweetest thing, my heart breaks a little thinking about it. But there are many other starring characters in this book, which captures the struggles of growing up and living in Nazi powered wartime Germany.
I enjoyed and liked the perspective of WW2 from the Germany side, and in the notes at the end of the book the author correctly references the ongoing propaganda that drives the belief that Germany were united in the war time efforts alongside Hitler. Markus Zusak gently reminds us this was never the case. Aspects of the book are truly harrowing, for me the march of the Jews was painful to read as the author captured the humiliation and despair as the walk progressed.
As I mentioned previously I had seen and enjoyed the film of The Book Thief and so the plot wasn’t new to me, however my enjoyment was not curtailed by this and I think that is a measure of the incredible writing. I could write reams here about the plot, the many characters that I think will stay with me for a while yet, the ability for life to go on, while war engulfs and children play and laugh while in the background the shadow of Nazi Germany looms. 13 years after publication The Book Thief claims it’s rightful place among my favourite reads, and what else to say? If you haven’t read it please do, it is amazing!