I sat there in the brilliant evening sunshine, blinking back the tears. Pretending it was the sun in my eyes that had dazzled me when, in fact, it was the book I had just finished.
If you haven’t read The Book Thief by the Australian writer Markus Zusak – then you must!
It is a tale of dark times in Nazi Germany, of Jews and hiding and concentration camps. A tale narrated by Death as he reluctantly travels the world bearing the souls of the dead.
Or – in the words of the blurb in the back:
This novel is narrated by Death
It’s a small story about a girl, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist fighter and quite a lot of thievery.
The protagonist of the story is Liesel, a foster child who arrives on Himmel Street to live with Rosa and Hans Hubermann. It is she who is the book thief, finding relief from life in words.
As the narrator Death says at the end of the book:
“I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her that she didn’t already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race – that rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words so damning and brilliant.”
Now, you might think that this book would be very depressing given its subject matter. But it isn’t – the book is comical, and written with such compassion and wit, that it transcends all the evil and sadness of the human race to dazzle and remind us of the kindness of people under pressure.
It is moving, thought-provoking, life affirming and magical.