On Things I’ve Read: The Book Thief

This book has been on my reading list for a very long time. I started it once, but had to return it. I decided it would be my pre-semester read for this term. It was worth it.

The book got a lot of attention for its use of Death as a narrator, and rightly so. The portrayal of Death was unique and engaging. True to his form as protagonist, I even rather liked Death. I wanted him to be able to make the choices, rather than being driven to them by humans – and in this case WWII. And I trusted him as a narrator.

But the book was about a little girl named Liesel Meminger, and her life on Himmel Street in a town near Munich. It only takes about 5 years to unfold, but the narrative style, the backdrop against which her story is highlighted, and the depth and complexity of her own story make it seem like an entire lifetime was packed in there. At around 550 pages, The Book Thief was just enough. I neither wanted more nor less, which is rare in a book.

The characters that make up Liesel’s story – lemon-haired Rudy, Papa with the Silver eyes, the ghostlike Ilse Hermann – are given life precisely because of the way that Death and Liesel describe them. They are brilliant and foolish in turn, completely believable, and lovable.

*Spoiler, I suppose*
One warning though – do not expect to make it through the last few chapters of the book without crying. It ends exactly like it should, in my opinion, but wrenches the heart.

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