Looking for some light summer reading? How about a novel about Nazi Germany? Oh, and Death is the narrator. In spite of the intensity of the subject, Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief somehow manages to be a very light and fast read, with loveable characters and light moments despite the constant sense of foreboding. For example, at one event Death is observing the manic “Heil Hitlering,” as everyone salutes at random. He wonders if during these desperate displays of patriotism anyone ever lost an eye.
The book is so much more than Death’s sly observations, though, because at its heart it is a coming-of-age story for a character that is easy to identify with, a young girl surrounded by historic events too dark for her to comprehend. Young Liesel, daughter of a communist, hider of Jews, and most ingrained in her sense of self, book thief. The books help her and the other Aryans in her small town try to make their way through all that is to come. And Death lets us know early on, “Oh, and how I am coming.”
We often focus on the holocaust, but rarely has anyone exposed what Nazi Germany was like for the Aryan citizens. From the complicit, to the terrified, the horrified, and those who intentionally turn a blind eye, this book examines the left-behinds. What happens to a community when overnight a chunk of it is suddenly missing? As one struggling shopkeeper notes, his Jewish competition may be gone, but so are his Jewish customers.
Number one on the New York Times Best Seller list of 2006, and winner of countless awards, The Book Thief’s pages are impossible to turn fast enough.