Somebody (I wish I could remember who) recently pointed me in the direction of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Others may have given it glowing reviews as well, because I know I had high expectations for it going in.
To be honest, I didn't really like it at first. The voice was very strong and felt a little fake (though by the end I loved it). The structure was choppy because section breaks come frequently and with narrative side notes (but I grew to love those too). The one thing that really pulled me along was the uniqueness of the imagery. I doubt the book had a single cliché.
But as the story progressed I became more and more involved. I read the first 6th of it over several days and then finished the rest in a single day.
At the end I cried more than I've ever cried before over a book. For some people that might not be saying much. But I really don't cry very often—almost never at movies and only rarely at books. This book, however, didn't just make me cry while reading; the tears kept on falling later when I went to curl up on the sofa with my hubby. (His words: “So you do have a heart.” Yes, I have that much of a reputation for dry eyes.)
So what's the book about? It's about a girl who goes to live all alone with a foster family because her mother is forced to give her up and her brother is dead. (She never knew her father.) It's about a girl who steals books and understands why words are important. It's about a girl living in Germany during World War 2, and it's narrated by Death.
Three things this book taught me:
-How to insult people in German
-How beautiful a narrative can be when the descriptions are totally unique
-What life might have been like for people in Germany during the war
The hardest thing about the book is that so much of it really happened. It's still very fresh in my mind, so I don't know if I can say much more than that. Remembering the brutality that people are capable of is important but painful. But this book is a reminder that even in the midst of great evil, people are capable of much goodness too.
The book has a lot of happy moments in addition to the sad ones. It's not so heavy that it's impossible to read. And I really would encourage anyone who can to read it. I'm certainly glad that I did.