Markus Zusak uses a very original style of writing for this story. I have never come across anything quite like it before.
As for the story, I actually ended up feeling very sorry for Death. How he managed to narrate a book of over 500 pages, I just can’t imagine. The poor guy is completely blocked out with his work; until eternity. Personally, I feel that I am far too busy to write a book, and I have a life of leisure relative to that of the old Grim Reaper!
The book thief, Liesel Meminger, is fostered by the Hans and Rosa Hubermann in Molching, near Munich, during World War II. She interacts with much of the local community, and her best friend Rudy, who comically impersonates the great Jesse Owens and spends much of his time trying to steal a kiss from Liesel, features heavily. Apart from her foster family, the other main characters in Liesel’s life include the Jewish fist-fighter, Max Vandenburg, who hides in the family’s cellar, and the mayor’s wife, Ilsa Hermann.
Death reveals his character, and his lack of understanding of both his mission on Earth and the strange behaviour of the human race, through comments which are littered throughout the text. Some of these are very amusing, others are downright thought-provoking. We are told, early on, that Rudy will be tragically killed before the story is complete, but this takes nothing from the intensity of emotions that run through the reader’s mind as the pages are turned. In fact, I would say that this knowledge probably increases the strength of feeling.
As the title implies, Liesel steals books from time to time, and these become part of her chronicle.
The only real gripe that I have with this book is that the publishers have tried to add realism to the inclusion of a hand-written short story, by illustrating it with ridiculously small and unreadable font. I struggled to read this enchanting section of the book with my fifty-four year old eyes peering through my reading glasses and a magnifying glass. I am sure that it was never the author’s intention to distract me from this beautifully presented story with bad formatting, but the publishers have a lot to answer for.
All said and done, I loved this book with its original style and its unique approach to relating the well-worn horrors of WWII. Superb!