If Death wanted to tell you a story, would you pay attention? That’s just what you’ll do when you pick up The Book Thief.
Death is a busy fellow (although he’s not gender specific we get the feeling he’s male). But the large scale events that keep him busy don’t often give him time to ponder why he may cross paths many times with some people. The case of Liesel Meminger is different. Death crosses her path many times during World War II’s Germany.
Death tells ten year old Liesel’s story: foster child, illiterate at first but taught by her foster father to read on those nights when nightmares of her younger brother’s death haunt her.
I did not find the story to be one of how Liesel finds solace through reading and her books. I found the story to be about the sacrifices required by the Furher of those working-class German families who were victims of the New Order as much as those people that Hitler sought to conquer. During those war years Liesel, her foster parents, and her friends and neighbors endure hardships. Food and coffee rationing, nighttime blackouts, air raids, the confiscation and burning of books that are not sanctioned by the government, the closing of stores and businesses when money becomes scarce, the Hitler Youth who terrorized working class people – all these are suffered by the working class Germans who attempt to retain their dignity above all else.
The story of The Book Thief is riveting and when the climax comes I was taken aback by the unexpected deaths while berating myself that I should have seen that coming. I found The Book Thief to be a powerful commentary of the effects of socialism on the working class who ultimately have no say in what happens under the rule of a dictator.
Suitable for ages 15 and up.