The Book Thief
The narrator of this highly original novel is none other than Death himself. With Nazi Germany as its backdrop, Zusak's sprawling tale focuses on a nine-year-old girl named Liesl Meminger, whom Death meets when he comes for her brother. A sympathetic figure, Death is drawn to Liesl and dismayed by the number of victimsgassed Jews, dead soldiers, bombed-out civiliansthe war has produced. Liesl, an orphan who lives with a foster family that's harboring a Jew, provides a sort of relief for Death. She lives outside of Munich, with Rosa, her careworn foster mother, and Hans, her foster father. After Hans teaches her how to read (using The Grave Digger's Handbook as a guide), Liesl steals books from the mayor's wife, from the Nazis, from any place she can find them. Again and again, books provide relief for her during the war, and so it only seems natural that Liesl herself should start writing, telling her own story. Death, meantime, recounts the events of Liesl's life in a detached fashion, in sentences that are clipped and minimal yet full of meaning. His relationship to Liesl is skillfully portrayed by Zusak, an Australian writer who has created a touching and poignant narrative about the redemptive power of art. Although it's being marketed in the U.S. for young adults, this is a provocative and critically acclaimed novel that adult reading groups will find richly rewarding.
Discussion questions are included in the book.