The Book Thief tells the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl growing up in Nazi Germany during World War II who likes to steal books. It is narrated by Death who was captivated by her story from the few times he saw her while going about his work, and one point came upon the book she wrote about her life.
There are many, many novels out there about World War II and the horrors of the Holocaust, and yet Markus Zusak has managed to write a book that is all its own while still giving you some of the same facts and events. Having Death narrate the story was an ingenious move on his part, giving the reader reason to know what is going to happen before it happens – both with real life events and in the lives of the fictional characters - and a time to prepare themselves for what’s coming. Of course, it doesn’t always help and the reader is still left feeling the blows of every gut-wrenching and heart-breaking event. Death’s narration also allows for, at times, a more flowery description that would not have fit with the story had Liesel or any of the other characters narrated it.
Zusak has also given the reader an insight into what real life would have been like living in Nazi Germany – the desperation to be a part of the Nazi party so as not to be shunned by the community, children laughing and playing one minute and having to hide in an air raid shelter the next. He shows the horrors of death, how suddenly it can happen, and also how it can seem to drag on when all you want is for your life to end. He also shows the more compassionate side of it, the way people come together to help each other through their grief, showing small signs of support in any way that they can.
That is not to say that this book is all about death (or Death, for that matter). It’s also about hope, courage, friendship, and the power of words.
You can read the rest of my review at my blog: http://readerlymusings.com/2013/11/18/book-review-the-book-thief-by-markus-zusak/