Liesel Meminger is a young girl growing up with foster parents in Nazi Germany. Death first encounters her at the death of her brother where he sees her steal a book. During his busy travels during WWII, Death has occasion to encounter Liesel, her friends, and her neighbors many times.
In all honesty, when I first picked up this book, I was taken aback at the size of it. As I started reading it, I was disappointed by Death narrating the book. I hoped that the point of view would shift (it never did). When I first encountered the bold print paragraph in the middle of a page, I hoped that it wouldn’t continue throughout the book (it does). I actually flipped through the book to see if they occurred throughout the book and thought, I will never finish this book. Then I really started reading it.
Wow, what a book! I couldn’t put it down! As I finished the book, I started thinking about the genius of the author to choose Death as a narrator. After all, who better to narrate a book set in Nazi Germany than Death? Zusak did an amazing job of not only differentiating the characters and how they lived, but also how those who died, died. It isn’t often that authors utilize foreshadowing so effectively as Zusak does. At times, he comes right out and tells readers what will happen and when. The characters are so appealing that even when told a particular character will be taken by Death, I was hoping and hoping it wasn’t true.
Zusak is a master of characterization. For example, Mama and Papa are polar opposites in how they relate to Liesel, but it serves to call attention to their prominent character qualities. Mama is demanding, loud, verbally disparaging, and demeaning while Papa is gentle, kind, and nurturing. Nevertheless, by the end of the book, I found that I would miss both of them.
This is such a beautiful book written about an ugly time in history. It is a book that makes readers think about how they view the German people from this time, how they treat others, and how they view Death. It is a very interesting read and different from any other book I have ever read on this topic.
Now I might have to watch the movie.