Award winning author Markus Zusak’s novel, The Book Thief, begins with an eye opening introduction from the narrator: Death. Contrary to what is expected, Death is not a cynical or gloomy character. At times in this novel, Death is portrayed as “cheerful… [and] amiable” (26). Nevertheless, through his short but frequent soliloquies, Death - in all his harmless, tameful glory- offers a significantly bleak view on the German society at the time. This is achieved through his description and discussion of war casualties.
Thankfully, the novel is not only depressing. The Book Thief takes dramatic turn each time Death describes the enthralling story of Liesel Meminger. Liesel, after losing her brother and being shipped away by her mother, is sent to live as a foster child with the less than welcoming Rosa and gentle hearted Hans Hubermann. Beginning in 1939 Nazi Germany, the novel follows Liesel’s life over a period of a few years sharing the ups and downs of being a child during the Holocaust.
One of The Book Thief’s most attractive features is its ability to accurately reveal the lifestyles of all types of people during the time period. From aggressive Nazi soldiers and their mindless followers, to compassionate silent resisters and hidden Jews, we see it all in The Book Thief. The novel is a true testament to the harsh times of the Holocaust.
The balance between negative feelings like sorrow, grief, and loss as well as positive feelings like love, friendship, and family makes The Book Thief a must read for any mature teenager or adult interested in historical fiction.