Several themes running through the book – Liesel and her foster parents, poverty in world war two Germany, terror visited on the Jewish population, tragedy of war for families as they lose loved ones, beauty of books and learning to read (as the book thief accumulates books).
Liesel, a young German girl, is fostered out to a couple living just outside Munich. Liesel quickly builds a relationship with the father (Hans) and, over a longer period of time, also with the mother (Rosa). War time Germany and they live on the breadline. Liesel also develops a number of close friendships with other children in the neighbourhood.
Hans Hubermann teaches Liesel to read and over the years she steals several books (Hubermann also buys her a couple of books) which form a background to the story. Football in the street is one of the social outlets – and excels as a footballer.
The ugly advance of Nazism is to the fore. The Hubermanns shelter a Jew (Max) – and Zuzak describes beautifully the prison like existence of Max living in the basement of the Hubermann house. One of the tenser scenes describes the local Nazis coming to inspect the basement for its potential use as an air raid shelter.
Dachau is nearby and marches of Jewish prisoners through the town become a regular event. And Max eventually having left the Huvbermanns (to spare them the threat), ends up in Dachau.
Hans Hubermann is an interesting character. He has resisted all invitations to join up with the Nazis – and falls out with his son. Eventually he is required to join the army and the war.
Liesel develops a close (platonic) relationship with local boy Rudi. They play football in the street, they rob fruit from orchards and generally become best of friends.
The book is narrated by Death – as he gathers up the souls. At times Death tells us what will happen – almost to underline the futility of much of what humans spend their times worrying about.
In many respects the book took me back to Anne Frank and her hidden existence in Amsterdam. I listened to the book (via audible.co.uk) – found it absorbing, well paced and, in general, I thought it provided a different and worthwhile perspective on war torn Germany (and the struggle of ordinary people). Would definitely be looking to read another Zuzak book.
[schema type=”book” url=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Book_Thief” name=”The Book Thief” description=”Story set in Germany during second world war.” author=”Markus Zuzak” publisher=”Picador” isbn=”978-0-375-84220-7″ ebook=”yes” paperback=”yes” ]