This is a VERY dark novel written about a very dark time in German history. The setting is Munich and the time is the Second World War. The story is about an eleven year old girl called Liesel. But let me be clear, The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank this book is not. I don't think I've ever a read a book before this one that was actually narrated by Death. It is a story about young Leisel and her foster family and friends who live on Himmel Street in Germany. The story covers about 4 years of young Liesel's life, and what a life she has. She sees more sorrow and heartache in that four year time frame than most people experience in an entire lifetime. The book opens with Liesel and her young brother Werner traveling on a train with their mother. An accident occurs and Liesel's brother is killed. She carries this memory around for the rest of her life, and even after her mother abandons her in Munich, and she is taken to a foster family to live, she has nightmares every night about it. But as it turns out, this is only the first of the horrors that Liesel experiences. She finds some comfort with her wonderful foster family who care for her like she is their own, and with her friends, especially Rudy. As we all know, terrible things happen in Nazi Germany during the Second World War, and this book portrays so very many of them, but there is so much love, hope and humour in it that it makes reading the story much more real and much more heartbreaking. This book will bring tears of joy and sadness to your eyes as you read it. In fact I found that it was a book that struck a chord with many of my feelings and preconceived notions about Germany during this time. When I finished the last page I had to sit for a minute and contemplate what I had read and what it meant. What more can you ask for from a work of fiction?:
The Book Thief is the fifth novel by Australian author, Markus Zusak. The setting is Nazi Germany just before the start of World War Two, through to 1943, and the story is narrated by Death. Death was decidedly overworked during the war, but he informs the reader that he saw young Liesel Meminger three times in those years before he finally took her much later. Liesel comes to 33 Himmel Strasse in Molchen to foster parents Rosa and Hans Hubermann, having just lost her younger brother, Werner to Death’s grasp. Cranky Rosa keeps the family fed with her washing and ironing service while kind Hans paints when it is needed, plays the accordion and teaches Liesel to read, all on the background of deprivation, anxiety and fear that is wartime Germany. The anxiety level rises when Max Vandenburg, a Jew, comes to hide in the basement. But the presence of this unassuming man also helps to expand Liesel’s experience of reading and of life. With her best friend, Rudy Steiner, Liesel embarks on a career of thievery, starting with apples but graduating, eventually, to books from the Mayor’s library, although her first books are acquired in quite a different manner. This much-awarded, best-selling novel looks at war from a different perspective: the effects it has on ordinary people trying to lead ordinary lives in an ordinary town. While the Fuhrer and Mein Kampf play integral parts, illustrating the use of words for evil, the emphasis is on the struggle of the common man (and woman) to do the right thing in a dangerous environment. Zusak’s characters have depth and appeal (even cranky Rosa): the banter between them often lifts the tension from serious moments with some quite black humour. Zusak is skilful with his imagery and wordplay: “He was teenage tall and had a long neck. Pimples gathered in peer groups on his face.” and “She imagined the sound of a police siren throwing itself forward and reeling itself in. Collecting itself.” are just two examples. The illustrations by Trudy White are a charming enhancement to the text. This novel has brutality, but it also has beauty. The narration style may take a little getting used to, but the reader who perseveres is rewarded with a wonderful experience. Very moving.