The Book Thief by Markus Zusak can mean a lot of things to different people. To some it could be the tale of a girl with an insatiable hunger for books. For others it could be a vivid commentary on the Nazi regime from an insular point of view. It could even be a metaphor for how life is fleeting and death is the one constant uniting all of humanity. Whatever interpretation may be drawn there is a assumption that the reader comes away with a clear message. That is one of many reasons why The Book Thief is one of the most scintillating novels I’ve read in recent memory.
The story is told from Death’s perspective during World War 2. It focuses on a girl called Liesel Meminger and her early years growing up in the heartland of Nazism. Death’s observations present a hauntingly picturesque image of the scars of warfare and the oppression of the German public under Hitler. Death is witty and distinct, to the point it has a human quality to its voice.
Zusak’s ability to pay close attention to each character, no matter how small their contribution is astounding. Whether it be descriptions of their appearance or individual quirks such as the favourite word set of the intimidating Rosa Hubermann. (As Death points out the Germans are very fond of their pigs)
A sense of reading more than one story is established as Death recounts the story Liesel has written about her life. There is an entire spectrum of stories to be told about each character no matter how large or small. The wealth of material could be overbearing for some but it’s a small quibble in the face of a book so ambitious.
The Book Thief may just steal your heart as well as invigorate your love of reading even more. It certainly did for me.