A touching, memorable, and gripping story about finding hope, happiness and power in a seemingly hopeless world.
The Book Thief is narrated by Death and follows the life and struggles of nine-year-old girl Liesel. Death is neither evil or good, but simply someone fulfilling his role in the world. Death makes a point in revealing important events to come, but never the manner in which they will occur. I think this narrative style is fitting for the time period, because we all know the devastation that is coming, we just don't know when or where or how it will strike. If anything, this technique built more suspense as I dreaded the inevitable as I fell in love with the characters.
Zusak shows the other side of Germany--the people who protected their Jewish friends and risked everything to do so. It shows the German people who didn't agree with the Nazis, who wanted no part in the war, and the effect of the war on these innocent German people (hunger, bombings, and death), and it shows how people express their refusal to give into despair.
Liesel's theft and reading of stolen books is representative of the power of words in Nazi Germany. Words can destroy a country, but they can also provide hope and relief from despair. For all the terrible words that Hitler puts out in the world, Liesel steals some of them back. Reading bonds her with her foster father and it allows Liesel to bring comfort to crowds of people waiting in the bomb shelters. Zusak shows that the power of words is endless.
Although the book is slightly long, everything about the book makes the length justifiable. The writing is accessible for the younger audience, the characters are interesting and well-rounded, and the story is hard to put down. The writing is vivid, without delving into the gory details as Zusak gives the reader just enough to be able to construct the horrors on your own.
I have not seen the movie yet, but I do hope it will encourage people to read the book. It might taken readers a little longer to get through, but it's definitely worth it. I hope that the film is a faithful adaption. Catching Fire certainly set the page-to-screen adaption bar extraordinarily high.