Set in Nazi Germany, the novel follows Death as it destroys a continent, a young girl name Liesel and her accordio- playing father as they discover the healing quality of books, and a Jewish stowaway.
A #1 New York Times Bestseller for 375 weeks, amongst many other awards, The Book Thief rightly deserves every bit of acclaim it has received since it hit the stands in 2005. From beginning to end, the characters pulled every heartstring I have and probably strung a few more. I adore this story because on the surface, it tells the story of a young German girl who steals books and delights in the written word; however, by the end, a reader has experienced a completely new perspective of World War II from the heart of Munich. The novel forces a reader to take a step closer to the complicated, unfathomable struggle of those put in the position of choosing between a moral life and a sure, but honorable death. In this case, I refer to a German family who chose the latter as they hid a Jew in their basement just mere miles away from one of the most infamous concentration camps in history. Though this specific scenario is fictional, I think this novel is a really great reminder that fiction can often take you even closer to the nuances of human emotion and the challenges humanity faces.
Perhaps the most interesting author choice in The Book Thief is the narration, which is taken on by a character we come to know as Death. The narrator adds both a touch of the fantastical but also somehow grounds the story in its humanness. Death enhances the gravity of the setting and creates the wider story extending beyond the main character, Liesel, and her family. I also found the seamless integration of Death and the very much alive Liesel to be the tell of a great writer.
I Book Club-ed this novel with a person whose mind is very different from my own and whose opinion I respect very much. Here is an excerpt of his thoughts after reading the book in his own way:
Maybe as an alien who lives alone I was more biased reading the book because i just got stuck on every script about family. My favorite character was definitely Mama. Her struggle to be the authority figure in the house even tho she cares so much about her family and tries her best to provide for them in time of need was so moving.
As you can see, we both loved it and would press it into your hands if given the chance. So, if you haven't already, go read The Book Thief.
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: March 2016