I noticed a long time ago that the books I absolutely love are the most difficult to review. Words fail me when I’ve just read 500 or so pages of perfection, pages that made me smile, made me fall in love with the characters, root for them, and then cry at the same time with them. What can one say about such a book? That it is amazing? That it’s worth reading and re-reading? This was exactly what happened to me in the case of “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak. Before picking it up, I knew that it was going to be good, but I didn’t quite expect it to have such an impact on me.
The narrator is none other than Death. And, when Death wants to tell you a story, the most sensible thing to do is listen. But Zusak’s depiction of Death is very different from what a reader might expect. This Death sees the world and people in colors, can be witty and serious at the same time, and knows how to crack a joke, which is really something considering his story is placed in Nazi Germany during World War II. Death seems to be fascinated with a little girl, Liesel Meminger, who has the bad habit of stealing. Given the book title, it’s easy to guess what she steals: books. The only thing that is left is for her to learn how to read them.
Living with her foster parents, Rosa and Hans Hubermann, and not knowing anything about her mother is difficult enough for Liesel. The fact that they are also poor and she is almost always starving doesn’t help either, but her father has taken it upon himself to teach her how to read, and the long nights spent learning the alphabet become Liesel’s only joy. Little by little she starts loving her foster parents, and one day they entrust her with a great secret: they have to save the life of a Jewish boy, Max, and that means keeping him in their basement. Will Liesel be able to keep this secret? And what would happen if their neighbors suspected anything?
Before you come to the conclusion that “The Book Thief” is just like any other historical novel dealing with the harsh times the Jews had to endure during World War II, let me tell you that it is much more than that. It is a book about family, love, survival during a time when bombs were dropped over cities and innocent people died. People who didn’t have anything against the Jews, but had to keep their opinions to themselves. It’s the story of a girl who found solace in the written word and shared her books with her neighbors during bombing raids. It is a story about keeping your humanity in a time when most people were worse than beasts. The author’s original writing style and the narrator’s unique voice turn “The Book Thief” into a book that you must have on your bookshelf and you must share with all your loved ones.
Those who watched the movie that came out in November might want to own this beautiful enhanced movie tie-in edition. It includes the official movie trailer, video featurettes introducing the actors, clips from the film, and an interview with the author.