If you are ready for a powerful, thoughtful, touching, painful but beautiful novel to read this holiday season, pick up Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief. Or death will come and get you. No, just kidding. Death is the narrator in this unusual, ambitious and brilliantly-written book.
Zusak’s image of death is a remarkably eloquent being who fits no traditional human notion and is fixated on colors. He observes the comings and especially the goings of humankind, bearing them away gently in his arms. Death becomes interested in the life of one young German girl, Liesel Meminger. She and her foster parents do the best they can to survive in the turmoil of Nazi Germany during WWII. One luxury almost no one can afford is books. Liesel steals books here and there, treasuring them up and reading them over and over. The books she selects are not always subject matter you’d like for an eleven-year-old girl.
Zusak’s modern fiction approach comes across at first as contrived, but gradually you sink into it and follow death around. He plays with chapter structure so that only the really important parts are shown, rather than long winding chapters that go nowhere. Everything feels significant, symbolic and yet, part of Liesel’s daily life.
My recommendation? You’ve got to steal this book and read it.