As The Book Thief begins, readers are introduced to a young girl name Liesel Meminger. She is traveling on a train in Germany with her mother and brother. Her mother can no longer care for Liesel and her younger brother, so she is taking them to a foster home. The only problem is the book’s narrator enters into their train car and takes Liesel’s brother before they make it. Who is this narrator, you may ask? The narrator is Death.
Liesel steals her first book, The Grave Digger’s Handbook, at her brother’s funeral. When she is deposited at her new home, she hides the book beneath her mattress for safe keeping as she is unsure what it is about. It takes a while for Liesel to warm up to Papa and Mama (her foster parents), but she grows to love them. She especially loves Papa, who comforts her after nightmares each night and teaches her to read. Liesel eventually mentions The Grave Digger’s Handbook to Papa and they begin reading it together. After she has conquered this book, she becomes thirsty for more and steals (or rescues) her second book from a Nazi book burning. And this is only the beginning of her thievery…
Our narrator is very different from what you might think. In The Book Thief, he is not portrayed as the one who kills the body and steals the soul away. He is merely the one who collects souls after they have departed from the body. Death is not the cause of the horrors that come about in this novel, he is just the byproduct of evil caused by humans. He actually becomes a very likeable character and provides an interesting perspective for readers.
I have been wanting to read this book for quite some time. One of the ladies from my book club picked it for us to read this past month, so I was excited to have a reason to put it at the top of my “To Read” pile. I was not disappointed.
While it does take some time getting use to having Death as a narrator, I realized that doing this was brilliant on the author’s part. While Death is not omniscient, he does travel quite a bit, and offers many different perspectives. He helps the story to be understood within the context of Nazi Germany and allows readers to get a closer look at the lives of many different characters.
I have really become a fan of historical fiction over the past few years and I have to say this is one of the best historical fiction novels I have read. It is definitely worth your time.
Other Book Suggestions:
Night by Elie Wiesel
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (I highly recommend this one)
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
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