The Book Thief

Book: The Book Thief
Author: Markus Zusak

Even this book’s synopsis is one of the finest I’ve read, describing Markus Zusak’s international bestseller as, “A small story, about: a girl, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist fighter, and quite a lot of thievery.”

When it cursorily informed me that, “This novel is narrated by Death”, in the customary block capitals, I immediately dreaded a poor imitation of Discworld. However, Zusak’s novel could scarcely be more different to Pratchett’s series. Far from entertaining flights of fantasy, this is a harrowing tale of a young girl in Nazi Germany.
Even given the setting, protagonist Liesel Meminger can hardly be said to have luck on her side: the story begins and ends with devastating visits from the narrator. But despite the immense anguish of her childhood, she finds solace in stealing books, and learning from them the power of words.

The writing is exquisitely crafted throughout, making this a long, but constantly rewarding read. Zusak also expertly uses his unexpectedly compassionate narrator to view humanity from the outside, mourning the atrocities and tragedy of the war, but above all celebrating the love and virtue to be found everywhere, even in the darkest hours of our history.

Utterly heart-rending.

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