Words cannot convey the absolute beauty and soul of this novel. It is much better to actually go and read the novel yourselves, and then I challenge you to find the right words to describe it- because it is one of those books where every single word plays its part, stringing together to form a heartbreaking, yet hopeful, story.
Death introduces himself as your narrator on the very first page. He asks that you kindly don’t judge him, but stick with him while he tells you this story he cannot get out of his mind. That story is of a young girl called Liesel, living in Germany during World War II. While the backdrop of the war shapes and cultivates the events that take place in the novel, it somehow doesn’t feel like a war novel. Perhaps because it is from the perspective of civilians, and there are moments where the war does temporarily leave their minds. But only ever for a minute, as the repercussions of the war strengthen throughout the novel.
I first read this novel in my final year in high school, and I’ve read it many times since. In an attempt to keep my German alive, I recently bought and am reading the book in the German language, although I don’t think the German translation has the magic of the English, which is funny, because often English is considered a language stripped of beauty. But Zusak’s writing is so magical and harmonious that it is easy to let the words float off the page and absorb you, and it takes a minute to think back and actually straighten out what is happening plot-wise.
I remember sitting and reading the final line of the novel for the first time, and being unable to move, unable to speak. This novel absolutely took my breath away, and it is probably my most favourite Australian book ever, even if the only connection to Australia is a mention of Sydney and the author himself.
Picador, Pan Macmillan Australia, 2005