The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak
In this story of 10-year-old book thief Liesel Meminger, Australian author Markus Zusak unveils the impact of World War II on a small town outside of Munich, Germany. The book is narrated by Death. Sometimes it feels easier to demonize an entire nation or to get lost in the sheer numbers of victims killed by the Nazis. Zusak does not allow that. Instead, he portrays a community of people with likes and dislikes, learning to read, falling in love, struggling to survive, mourning the death of a child. Liesel’s adoptive parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann, harbor Max, a Jewish man whose father once saved Hans’s life. Max’s creativity inspires Liesel’s creative impulses as well, and the girl makes friends with the Mayor’s wife, from whom she’s been “borrowing” books. This is a hefty title, more than 550 pages, but it reads quickly, in short bursts, and Death’s narrative voice is mesmerizing. The book is made all the more powerful by knowing that it was inspired by the stories Zusak’s mother told him about her childhood in Nazi-occupied Germany. The Book Thief reminds us of war’s far-reaching scars, inflicted well beyond the battlefield.