Surprisingly, 4 of 5 stars.
My experience with The Book Thief was a roller coaster, to say the least… I picked it up obviously thinking it was the best book ever because of all the hype, and at first I was genuinely impressed – Zusak’s writing style in this book is truly unique, phenomenal even, and the choice of Death as the narrator is pretty genius. So I was immediately sucked in. Then a few chapters later, I realized I was really bored. The story didn’t have much depth, and it was turning into more of a character study with a few stolen books thrown in. I started speed reading so that I could get done by the library due date and not have to go back to the end of the 90 person wait list. Well… I didn’t make it. About a week later, I found The Book Thief at the thrift store (score!!!), so I immediately finished it. The story never really sucked me in again until about the last 80 pages (not really much for a 560 page book). Usually, my opinion of a book is not swayed specifically by the ending but, in this case, it was completely different. The ending is beautiful, sad but beautiful, and it have the rest of the book a purpose.
The ending was so perfect that I literally sat there for 30 minutes after I finished and just had to think before I could do anything else. Though The Book Thief did drag in the middle, it ended up being a tribute to a little girl who made lives better, who faced loss but in the end kept her strength. Throughout the story, Death seemed enthralled by Liesel Meminger. It amazes me what humans can do, even when streams are flow down from their faces and they stagger on, coughing and searching, and finding.
The story skips around and leaves holes in places, but at the end you realize this is because Death was with Liesel Meminger often taking people away from her, but he was not always there. So you see the pieces as he would have seen them, and hear about them simply from his view. I am haunted by humans. Death was haunted by the strength of humans, specifically that of Liesel Meminger, during a time of profound loss.
From the very beginning, Liesel loses her mother and brother. The Hubermanns become her foster parents, and she falls in love with them. They take in a Jew named Max, and she falls in love with him while her family hides him. She also comes to love Rudy Steiner and Ilsa Hermann. All of these characters are so well developed that you see the tragedy of loss during World War II, from a personal view.
Really all I can say is that this book is just a beautiful, sad song.. one that I will surely read again.