By Markus Zusak
When the story is set in Nazi Germany, the protagonist is a child and death himself narrates the tale, you might imagine the pages to be as dark as dark can be; but here is where Zusak astonishes the reader. The story is all of this and much more.
I believe there are Samaritans in all times; good and bad. For throwing bread at a procession of emaciated Jews in Nazi Germany by a German could have been the worst of crimes, worse than being born a Jew. Yet someone dared to do it; not out of arrogance or pittance but basic humanity. And that's where this narrative touches the heart. The story of war, love and redemption is woven through the life of a German girl Liesel who is 'the book thief'.
With death giving his view point in an era when right and wrong had confluence to be almost unrecognisable was the most interesting object of the author's writing. He could comment on a human's inhumanity to another without being judgemental. And he does so by being callous and understanding; simply being death. The descriptions of the color of sky and the little notes he fills the succinct chapters with, hold a lot of significance and were as intriguing as the story itself.
The story-telling itself is beautifully rendered with a glimpse of events in the future, yet holding back enough to keep the reader engaged. The characters are very well painted and each of them form a firm impression on your mind. Rudy, Liesel's close friend and accomplice; Max who writes her a story of words; Liesel's foster parents; Ilsa Herman the mayor's wife always dressed in a bath robe with a swastika sign.
The book took me little getting-used to in the first few pages, but once the rhythm was met there was no looking back. Though I had initially wondered why the Book has been hailed as a children's book, towards the end I could feel the import. It is a depiction of righteousness in a vile world, happiness from little things and honest feelings. It is a true master stroke and I couldn't recommend the book more highly.