The Book Thief tells the story of Liesal Meminger, a young girl fostered by an accordionist and his wife just out of Munich. She spends her free time playing soccer in the streets, stealing books, and learning to read in the basement. Later she continues reading with a so called Jewish fist fighter named Max, a man with whom the Hubermanns help hide from the Nazis. Told from Death’s perspective, we view a life that shines even when threatened by bombs, torture, and even death.
It doesn’t start off particularly happy with the death of Liesal’s brother, nor does it end with everyone surviving, but the book seemed to come across as somewhat whimsical and light hearted at times. The reader can gain a sense of mortality throughout the reading; Death weighs upon all in the best of times and especially during times of war, but it’s something we all face on a daily basis, so why think about it constantly? The overall feeling I got from the characters was a sense of living in the moment. Even though nightmares plague us, even though we face a million different horrors on a daily basis, we face them and move on. It’s something we keep at the back of our minds so that it doesn’t overwhelm us. And sometimes Death comes by on chance and shocks us.
I liked the way that Zusak painted pictures with his words. “I am haunted by humans,” was a phrase that stuck with me because we are all haunted by people both past and present whether they are good or bad, never forgotten. I didn’t quite enjoy Death’s point of view mainly because he seemed to interrupt the story line with bold lines that vaguely connect with Liesel’s story. And then he’d tell the story out of order by explaining parts of the ending ahead of time, which I didn’t like. I prefer to be surprised whether it’s sad or not.
Zusak tells a refreshing story set in World War II of a young girl trying to live a normal life. Even with a war raging on, even with death and censorship, we can see loving, everyday people making a life as normal and happy as possible. In all honesty, I found the movie adaptation to be much more interesting than the book. It was smoother and more chronological than the book, which I liked.