A friend suggested I read this but I was a bit dubious given the narrator is Death! No offence but I didn’t think it would be a cheery book. Cheery it may not be but it’s an extraordinary narration of a part of history many authors have tackled. The setting is Europe before and during WW2. Death is having a boom time with the record of dead people he’s collecting all over the place.
But at one death he meets a girl who steals a book, Liesel Meminger. She is on a train with her mother and brother on the way to being delivered to foster parents. Her father is a communist and her mother chronically ill. On the way the brother dies and as they bury him the grave digger drops a book out of his pocket.
Using “The Gravedigger’s Handbook” her foster father teaches her to read and for the duration of her lifetime Death keeps an eye on her. She continues to steal books throughout her time in Germany and it brings her into relationships with very different people. She befriends the mayor’s wife and is allowed into her library of unread books.
The family takes in and hides a Jewish man who makes Liesel two books in which he tells her of his life and she is inspired to begin writing a book about her own life. Max eventually leaves and the family lives in constant fear of the Gestapo and the Nazi regime. She is in the basement reading when her street is bombed and she is the only survivor. In her distress she drops The Gravediggers Handbook and Death picks it up and keeps it. Liesel is eventually reunited with Max and lives in Germany till after the war. We are told she finds her way to Sydney, Australia and eventually dies there. Death is reunited with her and hands her the book and his most secret thought which he cannot share with anyone else “I am haunted by humans.”
The beauty of the story comes from the amazing perspective Zusak gives Death. He sees the continents in colour hues and is incredibly perceptive of human behaviour given he’s been around forever.
Well worth reading and don't be put off by Death!
|Buy at Fishpond.co.nz|