The Book Thief

Well I just got through reading The Book Thief, which was terrific! And I have actually stolen it, as my friend that lent it to me does not realise that she is not going to get it back. There is an irony there.

The narrator is Death, which makes a change from the usual gin-sodden female thirtysingles of chick-lit, and it is all about a little girl that loves to read. I can identify with this as I used to be a little boy that loves to read, and the only thing that has changed since then is the size of the boy, and the amount and quality of the pornography on his computer. That is by the by.

It is set against the backdrop of Nazi Germany, which is not as heartwarming as it sounds; bad books are always set against the backdrop of Nazi Germany and one family’s saga of love and loss spanning six world wars. But it is Hitler’s Germany seen through the eyes of Adrian Mole; Liesel, the book thief, is more interested in penny dreadfuls, the boy next door, and playing football than Kristallnacht. She does have a Jew in her basement, but when you are a kid, everything your parents do seems normal. Then, embarrassing.

Over time we come to know the characters in Liesel’s ordinary little town, though given who is telling the story, the outlook for them was always bleak. But it is not a story of horror or Holocaust. The Book Thief remains upbeat; the magic of reading and the kindness of strangers light up a little corner of Germany in Hitler’s shadow. I normally only like books about people blowing things up or going into space, or, better, blowing things up in space, so it is a rare mark of approbation for me to declare this book a “keithlard’s Must Buy”. Or steal.

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