The Book Thief

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I can’t think of any other novels that have moved me as much as ‘The Book Thief’ and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

“It's just a small story really, about, amongst other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery.” Set in Nazi Germany, ‘The Book Thief’ is narrated by Death himself – a compassionate character who appears to have grown weary of the huge amount of suffering and pointless loss of life happening during the war. He comments that he is “always finding humans at their best and worst. I see their ugly and their beauty, and I wonder how the same thing can be both.” It is perhaps for this reason that he becomes so interested in Liesel Meminger, her foster parents, and her neighbours, who show Death the very best of humanity, while surrounded by the very worst of it. This book is a powerful portrayal of what life was like for ordinary people living in extraordinary times – going about their everyday lives on Himmel Street, against the cruel and dangerous backdrop of Nazi Germany. Death first meets Liesel at the funeral of her 6-year-old brother, where she steals her first book, ‘The Gravediggers Handbook’, which had been dropped beside the grave. After this, books become increasingly important in Liesel’s life, closely bonding her with completely different characters throughout the novel – from her kind foster father who first teaches her to read, to the mayor’s wife, a woman who never recovered from the death of her son in World War One, to 24 year old Max, the Jewish man hiding in her basement. There are very few novels that I feel the need to revisit again and again, but ‘The Book Thief’ is one of them. It is a beautiful, unusual novel which has the ability to be simultaneously heartbreaking, hilarious, tragic and uplifting. I can’t think of any other novels that have moved me as much as ‘The Book Thief’ and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Adult fiction picked by Amy

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