Wow! I just finished reading The Book Thief and I am emotionally drained. But, lets start from the beginning...
The Book Thief follows the life of a young girl Liesel living in a small town near Munich in Nazi Germany. The book is narrated by Death which gives it quite an interesting twist. Death found a book that Liesel wrote, "The Book Theif" and he tells us her story. Death includes his own commentary on her life, Nazi Germany, war, and death in general. Death will also often tell you how a character dies before he gets to that part of the story. Ir is an interesting and unusual way of narration, but I liked it.
Liesel's story begins when her mother is taking her and her younger brother to a foster home. She watches her brother die on the train. She is very young and cannot read, but in the cemetery she steals a book she found buried in the snow, "The Gravedigger's Handbook". Once settled into the home of Hans and Rosa Hubermann, in order to calm her from her nightmares her Papa (Hans) begins to teach her to read from the book. Liesel becomes entranced with the words and makes it her goal to learn how to read.
The book follows her growing up on Himmel street, getting into trouble and stealing food and books with her best friend Rudy. Her family hides a Jew named Max in their basement for a while. Max helps Liesel with her reading as well and he begins to write stories of his own. Max gets very sick for a while and Liesel reads to him and bring him 'presents' in the hopes that he will get better. Max bonds with their family, and especially with Liesel. Their town begins to get raid warnings as the war becomes more intense. Max eventually needs to leave the Hubermann house... Liesel continues to read and steal books. Her Papa and her best friend Rudy's Papa get enlisted for the German Army. One day Liesel's Mama gives her a book that Max left for her, and in it Max wrote the story of "The Word Shaker" about Liesel and Hitler and the power of words.
The end of the story is horrific and wonderfully written, but I wont give it away. I sobbed my eyes out...
Personally, I loved The Book Thief. I wish I had known that it read more like a memoir than a typical novel. It basically followed Liesel's life - she had a very interesting life - but I think at times I was waiting for the twist in the plot thinking it was more of a novel story.
The Book Thief's main theme is the power of words. This carries throughout, but resonates the most at the beginning and end of the book. It is also a great story of just being a German in Nazi Germany. We often forget that they struggled too and that not everyone agreed with what Hitler was doing. Other themes are the will to survive, the meaning of family and love, regret, and the effects of war on the human spirit.
This book has many common themes and topics with Fahrenheit 451 and with Night.