I read The Book Thief earlier last year and I don’t think I made a full recovery. In fact, I think Death has visited me several times. Judith and Tatum had warned me about it, and I went into the book knowing it was going to tear out my soul, but that still wasn’t enough preparation. The Book Thief is one of the best heart-wrenching books I have ever read.
I won’t go into just how much I love history (in summary, I love it a lot) but I have been a bit worn out with WWII history over the past few years. It’s pretty much all we study in school history classes from Year 6 (age eleven) onwards, so I rarely seek out WWII fiction. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy it, because I do. I love it a whole lot. It’s just not my go-to if I want an historical novel. But The Book Thief gives a whole different take on WWII. It’s about a German girl who lives in Nazi Germany, whose family and friends are part of the doctrine, either willingly or not.
A lot of people, especially those in the UK, write off books about Germans during WWII because they seem to think that the authors are Nazi sympathisers. I want to smack those people on the head with a book because that is not the case at all. In the case of The Book Thief, for example, it is a pretty good depiction of what the average person went through when living in Nazi Germany. The fact of the matter is, most people didn’t get a choice in the matter. They had to support the Nazis and Hitler’s regime or they and their families would be punished for it. Many people in the UK don’t seem to realise that. And it saddens me when people refuse to read novels because they think the authors are trying to brainwash the reader or whatever.
Anyway, mild rant over. The Book Thief is a slow burn novel. Nothing much happens in terms of action, but the major events that do happen are heart breaking. Death narrates the story and he follows Liesel through the early years of her childhood after she is taken in by a new family during the war. Through Death’s eyes, and also Liesel’s by default, we get to see what life was like for children in Nazi Germany.
The ending is the most painful thing I have read in a while, and we even know that it’s coming because Death bloody warns the reader before it happens. I almost didn’t want to continue, but I was already hooked by that point so I had to stick with it until the end. I completely broke down while reading. It’s a good thing I love emotional breakdowns when books are involved.
I would highly recommend The Book Thief to those few people who haven’t already read it. It’s a beautiful story of friendship that will stab you in the heart a couple of times and leave you lying in the street. Doesn’t that sound appealing?