From the cover of this book, coupled with the fact that it was recommended to me by a friend as her favourite book when she was younger, I automatically thought it was children’s or young adult fiction. I was really quite wrong – The Book Thief is a very sophisticated yet accessible story of a young girl surviving World War Two and life in Nazi Germany.
Zusack has a very easy writing style that really allows the reader to get into the story, rather than focusing on over complicated language. That is not to say that the book is simple – he uses flowing language that, while easy to read, is highly emotive and powerful. What is most interesting about how The Book Thief is written is that the narrator is Death. He tells the story of Liesel Meminger; a young German girl who is sent to foster parents in the small village of Molching because her father was imprisoned by the Nazis for being a Communist. Having Death as a character eliminates the detached omniscient narrator in a very intimate story, which I think benefits hugely from this much closer relationship with the person recounting it. Zusack also uses Death to explore the reader’s relationship with difficult topics such as fear, the horrors of war and of course death itself. Liesel must confront all of these and many more difficulties throughout the story. While this has the potential to seem like a ridiculous series of terrible events, Zusack intersperses the horrific with the everyday and the touching to make The Book Thief a highly realistic tale of a young girl’s battle against extraordinary circumstances.
I found The Book Thief really thought provoking – history, even fictional history is usually written by the winners. The only book that I have read similar to this is When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit (I’d highly recommend it and the sequels), and that follows the story of a family escaping Nazi Germany in the early stages of Hitler’s rise to power. Reading a WWII story from the German perspective was quite new to me, and it reminded me that whatever country you are in, war affects everyone the same. It tears apart families, it leads to death and destruction, it alters all parts of life. I would thoroughly recommend The Book Thief; if you feel like crying, laughing and having existential crises all at the same time, this is the book for you!