Author: Markus Zusak
Title: The Book Thief
Publication Info: [New York, N.Y.] : Listening Library, 2006.
This novel balances the line between heartwarming and heartbreaking, inevitably falling to the later, but never without giving up hope. Boldly, Zusak has the book narrated by Death who proves to be sympathetic to humanity and tired of the work he’s given in the Second World War. Central to the novel is Liesel, a German girl taken in by foster parents when her father is taken away for being a Communist. Set in a fictional suburb of Munich near Dachau, the novel details day-to-day life in a way that’s familiar to a coming of age tale but also has the overlooming presences of things like the Hitler Youth and nights spent in air raid shelters. Liesel finds comfort in books, and as the title suggests, purloins some books earning her nickname. Her life is also changed when her foster parents the Hubbermanns (already at odds with the Nazi party) repay a promise by hiding a young Jewish man in their basement. Zusak focuses on relationships, test of character, and hope while not dodging the tragedy and atrocity in their midst. It sounds cheesy to describe it but it really is a wonderful, well-written novel.
“They say that war is death’s best friend, but I must offer you a different point of view on that one. To me, war is like the new boss who expects the impossible. He stands over your shoulder repeating one thin, incessantly: ‘Get it done, get it done.’ So you work harder. You get the job done. The boss, however, does not thank you. He asks for more.”
Recommended Books: Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian, The Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davies, and Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene