It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.
Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.
Oh my gracious, this book.
Liesel Meminger has had a hard life. She doesn’t remember her father, she is being sent to live with foster parents, and she just woke up to find her brother dead next to her. It was at his burial that she gets her start as the book thief. She manages to move on, though, and build a new life on Himmel Street with her foster parents, the Hubermanns. She makes friends, has adventures, and continues as the book thief. But then the war, which had previously not touched her life directly, came and ruined everything.
Ok, this book is brilliant. I loved how it was told from the omniscient, personified Death. He has such a good sense of humor, and is brilliant with his use of irony. I also loved how this book is modeled after the book that Liesel writes. The characters are all adorable in their own way (Hans especially). There really isn’t a central plot line, more a conglomeration of Liesel’s adventures, but it really represented how World War II affected Germans, especially those who were not necessarily on board with Hitler and Nazism. This was an interesting viewpoint, though, because the people in this book were fighting on the side of the Nazis, and the bombers who attacked them were the Allies, so there was a weird question of who to root for because the Germans were presented as the good guys (most of them, anyways). I loved that they did this, though. It is so easy to make the generalization that all Germans were evil Nazis, when there were some Germans who were just as mistreated by the Nazi party as everyone else. I also loved that Zusak incorporated so much of the German language into the writing. Now when I call someone a Saumensch, they won’t know what I’m talking about. 🙂
It was also interesting to see the ethical question that was inadvertently brought up regarding stealing. Liesel and Rudy do it frequently, but it is almost a Robin Hood situation, with robbing from the rich to give to the poor. And one of the ladies they steal from allows them to do it, which brings up the question of if that makes it ok.
Now for my three complaints. First, the ending was heartbreaking. I spent the entire book falling in love with these characters, and then (spoiler alert) boom. They’re gone. I was stunned and heartbroken at the same time. Secondly, I wanted more with the epilogue. What happened after? How did Liesel cope? Who did she live with? Who did she marry? (I shipped her with Max, but they never specify…) How did she end up in Australia? Lastly, my only actually negative complaint was the language, which was moderately severe. A**, sh**, go***mn, and several variations of God’s name were all used frequently.
Overall this was such a sweet book, that forced you to think and to look at World War II differently. It provided such a unique perspective that I really appreciated.