I normally do not like reading “war” novels — especially those about World War II. My heart breaks when I think of the evil that mankind can do. I did, however, love The Diary of Anne Frank, and I also loved The Book Thief.
The Book Thief tells the story of a German orphan girl named Liesel. Her brother has just died, and her mother gave her up because she couldn’t care for her after “something happened” to her father, a suspected Communist. She goes to live with Hans and Rosa Hubermann, who also have two grown children. Their son is a solid Hitler supporter. Hans is a gentle man who tenderly takes care of Liesel. Rosa is a gruff German woman, yet we also see gentleness and compassion from her throughout the story.
At her new home on Himmel Street she meets Rudy Steiner, a boy with hair the color of lemons. He is a good student and an excellent athlete. In one incident he paints himself black because he is obsessed with Jesse Owens. Liesel and Rudy become best friends. They play soccer together and steal together — whether it be apples or the books that Liesel takes from a prominent town figure.
Another person close to Liesel is the German Jew they are hiding in the basement — Max Vandenburg. The relationship they have is one that transcends simple friendship or a romantic attachment. Their hearts are truly knitted together due to the horrible circumstances of the war. Their bond is unbreakable.
Each character in the book is so perfectly portrayed and so lovingly depicted. I fell in love with each one and cared deeply about what happened to them. I won’t spoil any more of the storyline, because this book is a treasure to read and to ponder over long after the final page is turned. It is a story that will stay with me for many, many years to come.
2006, 550 pp.