About four years ago, I tried to read The Book Thief. I got about ten pages in and gave up in frustration – which is really, really unusual for me. I absolutely detested the writing style, and couldn’t stand the interjections from Death, and had lots of other books to read, so I just didn’t bother.
A few years later, after bemusement from Sinéad at why I didn’t like it, since our taste in books is so similar, and it’s her favourite book, like, ever, and since the film was coming out in the cinema, I gave it another go. So now, having read the entire thing, here is my review.
The Book Thief is set in wartime Germany, on the quiet Himmel Street, where Liesel Meminger lives with her foster parents, Hans and Rosa Huberman. She’s struggling through her existence in Nazi Germany by making the most of it, stealing books where she can, and sharing them with a man whose hair is like feathers.
The book is narrated by Death, who’s never been busier, but still manages to come back to check on this little girl who steals books.
The book is really good, really it is. I was entranced. I didn’t love it as much as Sinéad did, but although we have really similar tastes, we don’t always have the same levels of enthusiasm about books, so I’m not surprised by that. I do think I made a mistake in abandoning it the first time I tried to read it.
The little interjections did still irritate me – it was a little like they were just there to be quoted on Tumblr (even though I think the book predates Tumblr) and I don’t think the book packed quite the emotional punch it could have for me, but it certainly was a beautiful book, and I’m glad I read it.
Historical fiction isn’t often something which interests me, and the majority of wartime fiction I’ve read would be set in the UK, so it was really interesting to read something set in Nazi Germany, and see how it affected the everyday citizen, and the emotional resonance of certain scenes was just heartbreaking.
I highly recommend this book, certainly worth the time and the emotional investment. Although I don’t recommend reading the ending on a train, or you may find yourself sobbing in front of a load of bemused strangers. Not that that happened to me, of course…