Here is a small fact: You are going to die.
1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier. Liesel, a nine-year-old girl, is living with a foster family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This is her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs begin to fall.
Reading this book I passed away many long motorway hours while I was on a roadtrip with my boyfriend. It had me sit in the car with tears streaming down my face, refusing to take my eyes off the page. When said boyfriend asked me what was wrong, I cried “this book is so goo-hood”. This was not entirely true. Though the end of the novel made me feel very strongly for the characters, it took a long while to get me there. Though the beginning of the story is intriguing – it starts with a death and the theft of a gravediggers’ handbook – everything slows down when Liesel arrives on Himmel Street. It changes from an adult novel into a children’s story about a girl who suffers from nightmares and gets up to all sorts of mischief with her new friends, set against a backdrop of the beginning of the Second World War in Germany. The novel doesn’t pick up its initial, more interesting style untill the war is in full swing.
It suffices to say that at some point in time , I will be standing over you, as genially as possible. Your soul will be in my arms. A colour will be perched on my shoulder. I will carry you gently away.
This novel is narrated by Death. He tells Liesel’s story while slowly disclosing some facts about himself. He is one of the most interesting narrators you will ever find, and very fond of foreshadowing. He begins each of the ten parts the novel is divided into with a short list of what will happen, and occasionally expands this with a scene. Though the scene sometimes turns out to be wholly different then expected, more often than not they spoil the ending of the part. This is especially distracting in the final part of the novel. At the beginning of the part Death outlines the ending of the novel, giving the reader a taste of the emotions he or she will feel when reading the final chapter. However, Death then takes us back to the events that happened previously, instead of building on these feelings. It left me in a state of mixed-emotions and annoyance as I felt I was spoilered. Why would I finish reading the last part?
Of course, my curiosity did get the better of me and I finished reading this book. Overall, it was a very nice read,providing me with a nice insight into the lives of ordinary German people before the start of the Second World War. I enjoyed the format of the small facts, quotes and statements that Death makes throughout the novel and was, as I said, very attached to Liesel towards the end. And who isn’t interested by the idea of a young girl who steals books? This novel needs some time to get going, but then proves to be a rewarding read.