My first experience with this book was via audio-book. When it was published I listened to this with my daughter over the period of a few weeks.
My children are trilingual, as am I, and German is the first language for my older children. So we both enjoyed the fact some of it was spoken in German, and most importantly it was spoken correctly with the right intonation.
The occasional Saukerl and Saumensch would make my daughter giggle, despite the seriousness of the premise. In its own way The Book Thief is quite witty even amidst all the tragic circumstances.
It tells the story of Nazi Germany from the perspective of a young girl. The reader experiences the world through her eyes,the emotions, the trials and tribulations. Simultaneously the book is narrated by the voice of Death. Obviously he is kept very busy during the Nazi regime. His pragmatic view and cold assessment of the situation. In his own way he is drawn to the story or life of this little girl, and follows her through the years via the death she is inevitably confronted with.
I completely identify with her book thief identity. Living in an era where it is a crime to read certain books and living in a regime that seeks to control all thoughts and actions. The books she acquires become her miniature universe, especially when she is taught to decipher the words and letters. Her anguish when she sees a mountain of books being burned and she endangers herself by saving one. Even the way Liesel establishes a relationship with Frau Hermann, by breaking in and stealing one book after the other from her library.
The other important aspect of this story is the way the family endangers themselves by hiding a young Jewish man in their basement. Max and Liesel have a lot in common, especially the loss of their immediate families. Their relationship goes from mistrust, to wanting to keep him safe, to love. In the scene of ‘recognition’ it becomes clear just how strong their bond is, perhaps more so because he has become family. How important that is becomes clearer at the end.
It is a beautiful story. One that stays with you, and one you will probably come back to again, as I have.