This is the story of Liesel Meminger, a young girl in Nazi Germany, who having watched her family disintegrate, is fostered by the kindly Hans and Rosa Hubermann. Liesel sees the atrocities committed in wartime, and sees the best and worst that humankind has to offer. Hans is the father who takes care of her and teaches her to read – a gift that will be her salvation and the comfort of others. Rosa is the coarse but warm hearted woman who fiercely protects her family. During Liesel’s story, we meet a whole cast of characters – Max Vandenburg, the Jew who is hiding from the Nazis and just hoping to survive the war; Rudy Steiner, Leisel’s neighbour and best friend; Frau Holtzaphel, the Hubermann’s next door neighbour; and Adolf Hitler, who while never actually appearing as a character in the book, certainly looms over the whole story.
The book is narrated by Death himself, who is a surprisingly thoughtful and compassionate storyteller.
To put it bluntly, this book is fantastic. It is apparently aimed at young adults, but I think this is a book that adults of any age would and should get a lot out of reading. The story completely immersed me in wartime Germany and in particular, Lieisel’s world. The characterisation by Markus Zusak is terrific. Although there is a fairly large cast of characters, each and every one is beautifully drawn, and I felt as if I knew them personally. They were utterly believable, and I cared about all of them.
The book held my attention through every page – I never once felt bored. Death is an interesting, sometimes even amusing, and always thoughtful narrator – he reveals snippets of what happens to certain characters before the events actually occur, but despite this, when such things do actually happen, the impact is not lessened in the slightest.
As the vast majority of characters are German, the reader sees the war through the eyes of German citizens, and shows them as individuals rather than the collective nation which wartime Germany is often viewed as.
To sum up – occasionally, I come across a book which I want to tell all of my friends about. I feel as though I want everyone I know to read it. This is just such a book. Very highly recommended indeed.