Rating: 4 out of 5 unicorns
A heart-warming story with a gentle pace and powerful grip.
I feel somewhat liberated as well as deeply moved after finishing The Book Thief. At 584 pages, it’s a decent length. Although I didn’t often feel compelled to pick it up, when I did, I immediately enjoyed it and submerged myself easily because of the vividly drawn characters, including the fascinating and humorous narrator, Death.
Looking back, I have deep respect for Zusak’s crafting of the storyline. He takes us through the years 1939-1945 in the fictional Himmel Street, Molching, set in Nazi Germany. The story follows the hard life of the willful Liesel and her foster family, as told through the eyes of Death, who had developed an intrigue for the girl during her presence at the deaths of others. Death, interested only in lives (and the snuffing out of them) and not in world politics, rarely leaves the microcosmic world of her tale to dwell on the larger, more infamous events and figures of wartime Germany. Zusak skillfully allows these to loom in the background, revealing them through their trickle-down effect. Our eyes are never fully on them, so absorbed are we in the impact of xenophobia and war on Liesel’s small town. This is much like the eyes of the villagers, but clearly to their detriment.
Zusak’s slightly batty but endearing prose puts on its Sunday best toward the end. Line after line is touching, sad, and perfect. Hours have passed since I finished this book, and I am still moved by it. The Book Thief is a powerful, intimate portrayal of Liesel and her family life, as well as a disturbing picture of any street in any German town swallowed up by Nazism.