Title: The Book Thief
Author: Markus Zusak
Released: March 14th 2006
It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.
By her brother's graveside, Liesel Meminger's life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Grave Digger's Handbook, left there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordion-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, wherever there are books to be found.
But these are dangerous times. When Liesel's foster family hides a Jew in their basement, Liesel's world is both opened up and closed down.
Okay, so this book has taken me over a week to finish. But oh my - I literally just finished it on the bus, and I am absolutely speechless. This is definitely one of the best books I have ever - and will ever - read. It just had everything I've always wanted in a good book. Usually, you're lucky if you get a novel that ticks off a few things that you love in a good read - but this ticked everything for me. It was just absolutely amazing.
I don't want to spoil this book for anyone, but I'll briefly outline it. It's mainly set in 1940's Germany, which many people know was the time of World War II. The story is narrated by Death, but is told from a young girl's point of view. Her name is Liesel Meminger. The whole book is her story, about how she was taken away from her mother, and put into foster care, and what happened during her time there. Now, I know I've made this novel sound really boring, but it's just because I don't want to give anything away, because it will spoil something or another. But please, just trust me on this one.
Firstly, I loved the whole idea of the story, especially the fact that it was told from a non-Jewish German girl's point of view. Most books about WW2 are either from a Jewish perspective, or a foreign perspective - it's never through one of the civilian's eyes, and I found it very eye-opening. You never think about how they must have felt, having to be put through Hitler Youth, hiding in air raid shelters, and doing everything the Gestapo said, unless you wanted to be killed - or worse. It was as dangerous for them as it was for most other people, but we're just never shown that.
Secondly, I loved the structure of how it was written. The idea of it being narrated from Death's point of view does sound a bit weird to begin with, because how does he know all about Liesel's life? Surely he's too busy trying to round up the dead? But it wasn't like that. Zusak wrote Death as if he was a human being, so as the story was told by him, it was easy to forget that he was a sort-of mythical being. Well, not exactly mythical, exactly, but not your average story-teller either. I also loved the little facts and dictionary definitions written down every now and then - I thought it was quite original and quirky. However, I think the best part I loved was all the little chapters seperated into ten individual parts. Because it wasn't labelled 'chapter one' and 'chapter two' and so on, it made it more like Death was stood in front of you retelling the story, than just some words in a book. Zusak brought the story to life.
I also adored the characterization. Man, does Zusak have a talent. Overall all of the characters were very well thought-through, and each of them had their own little background, which made them more realistic. However, I really loved the main characters of Liesel, Rudy, Max and Hans. Zusak made them so realistic, I could genuinely imagine all this unfolding somewhere during the war. As I said earlier, I felt like I was experiencing it alongside them, cheering at the highs, and crying at the lows. Each of their individual stories really hit me hard.
I'd like to say that as I've read this novel, I've grown as a person. This book has been up for so many different awards, and I can see why. It is amazing. I don't think there's any word in all of the languages that can properly describe it's intensity and powerfulness. Whether historical novels are your thing or not, you must give this a try. It's just one of those novels that you've got to read at least once during your life time. This is my first time, but certainly not the last.