Imagine if Death were a person.
What might Death sound like?
What might Death have to say?
Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief tells the story of thirteen-year-old Liesel Meminger, a German girl searching for the right words to capture the horrors of WWII that she witnesses. Narrated from the perspective of Death, The Book Thief explores themes of friendship, war, the resilience of the human spirit, and the capacity for compassion.
After finding an ominous book left behind at her brother’s funeral, Liesel embarks on a journey full of secrets that eventually leads her to discovering the indestructible power of words. With her childhood best friend, Rudy, by her side, Liesel’s penchant for mischief gradually transforms into a means for survival, and with the help of her foster father and a dangerous visitor in the basement, Liesel begins to find her own voice in the piercing silence of 1939 Nazi Germany. From breaking into the mayor’s house to feeding passing by Jews as they parade towards Death, Liesel is just as fearless a book thief as she is a friend and daughter.
The Book Thief reveals a community utterly destroyed by incessant fear, even before the first bomb is dropped. With its crude yet captivating illustrations, the novel depicts the war’s true devastation, as Death leaves no side untouched. Though at times a distressing read, The Book Thief serves as an invaluable addition to the genre of Adolescent Literature, as it uncovers the uncontainable devastation of violence, the importance of story-telling, as well as the incredible bonds that can form between parents and their children, friends, and even enemies.
By: Mia Rotondi
Zusak, Markus. The Book Thief. Anniversary ed. Sydney: Alfred A. Knopf, 2016. Print.