The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is the most beautifully written book I have read this year. Billed as a Young Adult novel, I believe that is too specific a categorization. I would argue that any age could read this novel, and they would be moved.
The story is a simple one. Set in World War II in Nazi Germany, a young girl, Liesel, is sent to live with a German couple, Hans and Rosa Hubermann, after her mother could no longer care for her. She brings with her a book that she found after her younger brother’s funeral. This conceit of the stolen book carries through the novel.
Trust me, though, the words were on their way, and when they arrived Liesel would hold them in her hands like the clouds, and she would wring them out like rain.
~p. 80, The Book Thief, Markus Zusak
Most of the action takes place on Himmel Street and the immediate surrounding area and we learn about the other residents intimately as they interact with Liesel and the Hubermanns. Still, the black cloud that is WWII hovers over the entire story. No one remains untouched by at least some element of the war. Love, survival, acceptance and humility are some of the other themes that thread through the story.
I won’t say any more about The Book Thief for fear of spoilers. I will say that Zusak makes use of a most unusual narrator and for me, the realization of who the narrator is and the treatment he is given throughout the novel is genius.
The Book Thief has been made into a movie, which was released at the end of 2013. The reviews are mixed, but I haven’t seen it so I can’t say either way.