Hmmm. Well. I sometimes really wish that I knew how to do a decent review of a good book. I'm about capable of, 'Well, that was good' and that's it - any more than that and I struggle for ages. This one, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, deserves better than I to describe it, but I'll give it a go.
The first thing to know is that the story is narrated by Death. There's only one problem with that and that, in two words, is 'Terry' and 'Pratchett'. But that's okay, there are shades of Pratchett's 'Death' but not too many and the book soon distracts you from it. The story is set during World War Two and concerns Liesel, a nine year old girl, who is taken to live with a foster family on the outskirts of Munich. The year is 1939 and they are the Hubermanns, Hans and Rosa (they have two grown-up children that hardly feature). Hans quickly becomes the centre of Liesel's world and through the eyes of Death you learn how a traumatised child begins to heal. You also hear about Rudy, her best friend, how the girl begins to steal books, how the family harbour a Jew in the basement, and the impact of WW2 on the family and neighbours.
I don't think I've read a WW2 book before that was from the pov of a German family, though I wouldn't swear to that. And it's a very small world. Hitler is often mentioned but you don't really hear many details about what's going on in the outside world. Which makes it extremely personal. You become very close to Liesel and you worry about all the characters in the book. The futility of war is brought home to you in the small details of everyday life in this very poor family. The author is stunningly good at making you want to weep - I did actually cry over the last few pages.
As you'll have guessed, I was very affected by this book. The style it's written in is unusual and might not be to everyone's taste. I don't have the ability to describe it properly but it's kind of conversational, you might even call it 'bitty' because you're fed bits of information in odd places so that actually you know part of the outcome way before the end. Which helps in a way because this is without doubt a tragic story. There are parts that are uplifting and give you hope for the human race but in the end it's nothing but very, very sad.
Would I recommend the book? Absolutely, without question. A fantastic piece of work. Likely to be one the best things I'll read this year I suspect.
Six books this month. A number I'm pleased with as it means I'm back to normal with my reading. Here be they:
1. Indian Summer – Will Randall
2. The Undomestic Goddess – Sophie Kinsella
3. Morality For Beautiful Girls – Alexander McCall Smith
4. The Novice – Trudi Canavan
5. The High Lord – Trudi Canavan
6. The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
And I liked every single one of them. You can't ask for more than that, can you?