The book is set in Germany during World War 2, it is narrated by Death who comes to collect the soul of Werner Meminger after he has died from illness. Death is really busy during this time and should really be going but he stops to watch Werner’s sister Liesel while she is saying her last goodbyes at Werner’s grave. While she is there, Liesel steals a book ,the first of many books that she will steal.
As Death makes the rounds picking up souls, he watches Liesel as she grows up in war torn Germany. She lives in a very poor community with her foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann. Although Liesel grows up in poverty, she finds happiness in simple pleasures like playing soccer with the neighborhood kids, especially Rudy her best friend and getting up to mischief by stealing a few treats here and there.
Things change when Hans must fulfill an old debt. He must hide the son of a Jewish man who once saved his life. Liesel and her family bond with Max, the man they have hidden in their basement. Max and Liesel have a fondness for stories and together they share many.
I found the novel to be quite charming and touching. Liesel is a likeable character; she’s a stoic yet sensitive and a gusty young lady. Death’s character is gentle and understanding. He’s not the skull faced, black robe spectre that I expected. He observes humanity with sympathy, musing at the terrible things he sees and marveling at the moments of kindness. Sometimes I think he’s rather camp. The other secondary characters all have back stories and are well described. Everyone seems like real people.
Zusak’s storytelling is vivid. When I read the book, I felt that I was there among the characters. I could picture the cold winters, savour the apples that Rudy and Liesel steal, the watery pea soup that mama serves and bleak Himmel Street. I felt that the book had a cinematic feel to it and I was not the only one as it is going to be made into a movie and coming to a cinema near you in 2014!
So I hope you read the book. If you like war time stories about families who love and support each other during the hard times this book is for you.