THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak was recommended by several friends, and finally loaned to me by one of them. And how glad I am! This amazing book, written ostensibly for young adults, will captivate adult readers as well.
Narrated by Death and set in World War II Nazi Germany it is the story of Liesel Meminger who is brought at age nine to live with a foster family in a poor suburb of Munich. Her tough mother, who curses a blue streak, is off-set by her peaceful loving father who teaches Liesel how to read and arouses in her a love of the written word. A love, by the way, Death himself shares.
Liesel becomes the book thief when she takes a book that is abandoned on her brother’s fresh grave as she makes her way to her new home. It is this book that inspires her foster father to teach her to read, and from there she “steals” other books, one of which is rescued from a book burning to celebrate Hitler’s birthday.
The family hides a Jewish man in their basement, and Death often looks at their hardships and how it shapes them. He muses on the effects of words in our lives; how words have promoted good and evil, love and hate. And how, he questions, have words put Hitler where he is. In effect, this is a story that has shaped all of us in one way or another.
Written with a beautiful, lyrical voice, THE BOOK THIEF covers the years from the late 1930s into the 1940s. Liesel has a motley group of friends who are part of a captivating story that will live on in your memory for a long time. I would highly recommend this book, and look forward to trying out some of Zusak’s other novels.
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