Wow! This is one of my favorite books because it is so well written. This is a story of beauty, horror, resilience and everything that is both good and bad about the human condition. It is really one of the best fictional stories I have read about the World War II era. Not to over-propagandize this one, it really does belong on a must read before you die list. It is also one of those that — like Schindler’s List — you really don’t want to read, but know you have to.
One thing that sets it apart as a really unique story is through the narration. Told through a third person narrative of the voice of death, it really gives insight into the troubling events, both large and small, that made up the horrors of World War II. As strange as it may sound, the voice of death brings depth, insight and wisdom regarding humanity. The weaknesses, strengths valiant nature and depraved character of men are all portrayed as aspects of individuals — and more significantly they exist in all people.
Another thing that I really loved about this book is Zusak’s use of color. The red, black and white of the Nazi flag become central to the entire story. These colors create the setting, the action and all the drama of the backdrop to a powerful story. Each of these colors start with one interpretation and evolve into many different perceptions throughout the entire story. They change and impact the story in subtle, graphic and powerful ways — giving both depth and reality to Zusak’s writing.
Each of the characters live and breath, making a powerful narrative. These characters are drawn so as to make it easy for the reader to engage and step into the reality of this time and place. The characters each portray the various ideologies, beliefs and characteristics that ultimately came together to cause the occurrence of the Second World War. Liesel is particularly powerful, in that she is an orphan of communist parents, who has been placed in an adoptive family, where she first comes to know the power of relationships and love. She evolves into a very sympathetic character who brings the rest of the supporting characters into a powerful foundation for the book.
Most who are familiar with the Nazi era, know of the reputation and role that books played in this troubling time in history. This is the reason that books play a central role of the story. Liesel’s passion for books, from the first one she steals to the last one she rescues, are all powerful commentary on the events that happened in Nazi Germany. From the Handbook for Burials to the book rescued from the Mayor’s troubled wife — they each help her to form strong relationships with a vast array of characters, all of whom are both victims and heros in the the evolving story.
This book is really a must read. It is elegant, well written and very much worth the time and effort. It is a book that changes lives and beliefs — while challenging perceptions that we each hold of the human experience.