Before reading this book I knew that it was often regarded as a modern classic or at least a must-read. But, for some reason, I had it in my mind that it was just another young adult novel so I wasn’t really expecting anything as actually grand as it had been hyped up to be. I, as per, was wrong. Which is always a pleasant surprise, because it’s a sign of me discovering more literature that I absolutely love.
Briefly, The Book Thief is a story of a young girl called Liesel as well as her nearest and dearest living in Nazi-occupied Germany. The thing that separates this novel from any other historical World War Two story is that she is obsessed with reading and stealing books, also, the whole thing is narrated by death. Crazy right? I thought so too. Of course, anything to do with the holocaust is going to be sensitive and upsetting, however, I feel like Zusak has a much deeper impact with The Book Thief as he can describe the vast area of death and destruction much more poignantly than most. The perspective isn’t confined to one single mind or cold facts, it follows the figure who would have worked the hardest in this period and that is Death itself.
Death as the Narrator isn’t as negative and evil as you may expect, in fact, he could perhaps be one of the most humane characters in The Book Thief as this is a time of Hitler, Nazi youth and the Holocaust… Death demonstrates many positive traits in opposition to his usually depicted persona such as admiration, love, sympathy, and respect for those deserving. What is particularly upsetting about his character is that he becomes weary of so much unnecessary death and destruction in Nazi-occupied land that he questions the humanity of humans and cherishes the exceptions such as Liesel, her father Hans and her best friend Rudy who still inspire genuine goodness.
There are many anecdotal moments in the novel that gives insight and interrupt chapters, such as historically relevant moments that Death had experienced elsewhere in Europe, but also definitions and mementos that act as embellishments on characters and important plot points. I think this is one of my favourite aspects of the novel as Death intervenes with his own perspective within the accounts of Liesel’s life and often makes it more poetic and heartbreaking I suppose.
I should probably start rating my reads with a ‘how much did I cry’ spectrum as that seems to be what has summed up most of my recent reads. So I would say that The Book Thief was a solid I-absolutely-sobbed-to-the-point-that-my-grandma-asked-concerningly-if-i-was-okay out of 10. So it was very emotionally effective and while it was quite simple to read (understandably as young adult fiction) it was still very poetic in places and there are many quotes that touched me throughout. I thought that I’d share a few that don’t really spoil anything in the novel: