Published: September 11, 2007
Number of pages: 550
Genre: historical fiction
Verdict: 5 hoots out of 5
Liesel Meminger’s life changes when she finds a black book near her brother’s graveside and is taken away from her mother to live with her foster parents: Hans and Rosa Hubermann. It’s 1939 in Nazi Germany and the entire country is holding its breath as World War II begins. Meanwhile, Liesel creates a new identity for herself: the book thief as she steals books and secretly reads them in her new home. But danger lurks as her family hides a Jew in the basement and Liesel’s world is turned upside down.
There are books that make you smile, books that make you laugh, and there are books that make you sad. This book is the latter. If you like reading stories with happy endings then this book isn’t for you. But if you like reading stories that make you feel melancholy and you care about the characters, then I recommend this book. It’s so beautifully well written and the language is poetic and lyrical, that after I finished I sat still for a few minutes as I was overcome with grief. This book will do that to you.
There are two things that I like to talk about: Death and words. I want to talk about Death first because he is the narrator. I like how Death is portrayed as a human figure. As he tells the story of the book thief, Death also tells the story of his busy work during World War II and his observations of the human race. Death feels compassion and empathy for humans, particularly Liesel Meminger and her best friend, Rudy Steiner. It is unlike Death to carry these feelings as in our minds we portray him as the Grim Reaper, a villain and a trickster. But he cares about the souls he carries away; the children he explains, he holds them gently in his arms. He is sympathetic to human kind and despises the despair and destruction brought upon them by war.
Now if I were to describe the theme of this book, it’s the power of words. Liesel is an illiterate but as she learns how to read with the help of her father, she begins to crave books and their words. Liesel steals books because she is thirsty for words and their meaning. As she learns to read and write, she also learns a very valuable lesson: the true power of words. How words can wound and damage people but they can bring hope in the most unlikeliest and darkest places, whether it is in a basement or in the poorest streets of Munich.
A wonderful and transcendent story of a girl carrying a love for books starting with the black book she uncovered from her brother’s graveyard. As she burrows and steals books, Liesel discovers how powerful words can be and how they can bring war and despair but also hope and beauty even during the darkest of times. If you love books then you must read this but be aware that the story will leave you heartbroken.