I was so happy to have time to read this past week and it was as if The Book Thief just was in the right place at the right time – on the bedside table in the guest room of my in-laws’ house. In the spirit of the title, I yoinked it and devoured it.
I’ve read some amazing books this year, but this one is an immediate all-time favorite. I love it. I’ve had it on my list for years now, and was always a little intimidated by the first sentence anyone ever says about it: “It’s told from the point of view of Death during WWII.” Okay… maybe I’ll get to it. But seriously, it was just amazing. Just go with it. After finishing it, I already know this book deserves a place on my recurring reading list, right beside Time Traveler’s Wife.
It tells the story of a young girl, Liesel, growing up in a small town near the Dachau concentration camp in Germany during World War II. She steals her first book before knowing how to read even the title of the book she’s taken, and as she learns how to read begins stealing more books. Hearing a perspective on Hitler’s Germany of a family who isn’t quite sold on the direction things are going (to put it mildly) was fascinating. At one point a character said “the enemy is all around” (or something like that), which really seemed to resonate. For the citizens of Germany, they were being attacked by the Allies but also watched so closely by their own government it was as if they had to always be on the defensive about something. It is poignant, it’s beautifully told and tragic. Like so much I’ve read this year, it makes me count my blessings for living where I do when I do and appreciate the challenges previous generations faced.
What did I love? The narrating really grew on me. At first I wasn’t quite sure but after a while the perspective of Death and his way of describing things was really interesting. I’d read more books from his perspective, actually! The writing was great, a prosey poem. I loved Liesel, Rudy, Papa, Rosa, Max… it was a cast of characters I felt for. As hesitant as I was to pick up ah-nother book about WWII (it’s been a big year for WWII reading for me, inadvertently) it was worth it. I can’t stop thinking about it – the co-existence of beauty and ugliness. I always remember the part in Anne Frank’s diary when she says that she still believes people are good (or something like that), and there were some similar sentiments in the knock-out part of this book. (The knock-out part would be when I was crying uncontrollably.) I also loved the free structure of the book, some drawings and some incomplete sentences.
In my mind’s “If you liked this, you’ll like this” section, it is similar to Time Traveler’s Wife and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.
I was knocked over by how touching this book was and I’m so glad I picked it up. And I can’t wait to read it again!