The Book Thief

Written by Markus Zusak

This is a tale narrated by Death, or the Grim Reaper. He (or she or indeed it) tells the story of one Liesel Meminger, a small girl growing up in a small town near Munich in Nazi Germany in the late 1930s and early ´40s. Liesel is sent to live with hitherto unknown foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann, as her own mother and father are Communist activists or sympathisers – and the fate of such people in Hitler’s Germany is known by all. She is taught to read by Hans and quickly develops a passion for books, even though the family is desperately poor and books can only be got by theft or happenstance. Matters become complicated when the family hides a young Jewish man in their basement.

The Second World War is a busy time for Death. It comes to Liesel’s town in all its horror and turns her world upside down. Death tells the tale in a casual, off-hand, postmodern manner which does take a little getting used to. It is an intensely moving story, despite the unconventional narrative technique, showing in telling detail what life was like in an average German town when Nazism infected and imposed itself upon the German people.