ou can’t have a more hardcore story opener than this – little Liesel is on a train going to meet her “new” mother and father (since it’s 1939 in Nazi Germany, and her real mom is either unfit or too poor to take care of her and her brother). But a bad day goes further south when her brother suddenly dies on the train to her foster home. Once her brother is buried and before the train moves on, a book falls from one of the grave digger’s pockets and, even though she can’t read, Liesel steals it off the ground.
This is the first of many books she will steal.
This book was a fantastic slice-of-life story of what living in Nazi Germany was like. One watches the continued rise of Nazism over everything , the crushing of the Jews, the establishment of a death camp just down the road. And if things cannot get any worse for this family (being poor in a rationed society) it’s made even more difficult when the son of a Jew who saved Liesel’s foster father’s life in World War One seeks them out, begging for shelter.
It’s a fantastic story, even more fantastical when we learn that the external POV viewpoint comes from Death himself, who came for the girl’s brother on the train and now keeps tabs on her, watching her life and occasionally taking those around her (as the Allied bombing intensifies). A great story that speaks of the written word, the difficulty of mastering it, the beauty of possessing it, and the trials and tribulations of childhood and death.
This one would have made the cut for Best of 2020 but for the fact in came in late and only got reviewed in 2021 on this site. But look for it on the list next New Years. Unless I find even more fantastic books, this one should make the cut.