Book of a lifetime

Book of a Lifetime: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

From The Independent archive: former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell on a bittersweet novel set against the darkness of life in Nazi Germany

<p>Markus Zusak arrives at a screening of the film adaptation of ‘The Book Thief’ in Sydney, 2014</p>

Markus Zusak arrives at a screening of the film adaptation of ‘The Book Thief’ in Sydney, 2014

Whenever anyone asks me what my favourite book is, I find it very hard to answer. I have read so many brilliant books. It is tempting to pick a classic: Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers, a Dickens, a Brontë – and I do love Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. But the one book I cannot let go of is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

One of the most imaginative, thought-provoking pieces of writing, it will pull at your heartstrings while challenging your thoughts about the world you live in. Trying to explain the story to someone who hasn’t read it is like trying to explain colours to a blind man. However, I’ll do my best!

First, the story is narrated by Death. His tone (I presume him to be a man) is surprisingly warm and thoughtful. His descriptions of collecting souls from the dying are brilliant: “as I picked him up his soul melted in my arms like butter”. He is our link to the big man upstairs. The opening is esoteric, ambiguous and dream-like – not really representative of the book. The real story unfolds a few pages in, set in wartime Germany.

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