I remember studying Friedrich at school; The Book Thief reminded me of it. It’s that long since I read Friedrich that I can’t really comment on it, but I can tell you what I thought of Zusak’s book.
It’s a straightforward story of a little girl growing up just outside Munich in the early 1940s. The Second World War is happening all around; she dutifully attends Hitler Youth; her father was known as communist, so she is cared for by foster parents; her foster father isn’t a fan of the Nazis; they hide a young Jewish man in their basement. You may be able to figure out roughly where it goes from there.
A few things make the book stand out:
It’s supposed to be narrated by Death. This starts off a little gimmicky, but actually works well and adds impact. In fact, this voice provides some nice moments of poetry.
The foster parents are superb characters well portrayed.
It’s not the most subtle book in the world, but it is a good read. It has its poignant and moving moments, and they are effective even if you can almost hear the author thinking, “This, this is where they will cry.”
My knowledge and understanding of life in Nazi Germany are limited, but I do get the feeling that The Book Thief gives a good sense of what the war and Hitler meant for just a bunch of people trying to get by and not get noticed. In that respect it’s actually quite frightening and makes me wonder how I would have reacted. How do you keep your integrity when it means that not only you will suffer, but perhaps your family?
You’ll be glad you read it, I think.