Set in 1939 Nazi Germany and narrated by Death, it tells the story of 9yr old Liesel who is fostered by Hans and Rosa Hubermann when her own parents are sent to a concentration camp. The Hubermanns' live on Himmel Street which we are told means Heaven. By the time she reaches the Hubermann house she has already stolen her first book from the graveside of her 6yr old brother.
The plot concerns itself with:
some fanatical Germans
a Jewish fist fighter
and quite a lot of thievery.
At the heart of the story lies the power of words, how they can change lives for ill or good and one child's attempt to make the horror of the world around her a little more bearable. Even Death has an amusing side to his nature as he observes the best and worst in humankind. He declares himself openly on the very first page with the statement:
Here Is A Small Fact
You are going to die.
But immediately soothes the reader by following up with:
Does this worry you?
I urge you - don't be afraid.
I'm nothing if not fair.
So even though we know the fate of the characters before we meet them, our interest is heightened not diminished by prior knowledge of their fate. They perhaps seem more alive to us because we know what will become of them and the small town they inhabit as the bombs begin to fall.
The language is plain and the style cryptic as the author playfully concocts images and characters who will remain with you long after the close of Death's final statement.
I laughed out loud and shed tears reading this book and I cannot recommend it highly enough.