Sometimes you love books because of what’s in them. Sometimes you love books because of stuff entirely unrelated to them – a memory, a place or, most particularly, the thought of a loved one. For me, The Book Thief is both, because it’s the first book my daughter read and then recommended to me. That feels like a rite of passage for both of us.
I missed it completely when it first came out; or rather, I bought it, but because she asked me to so she could read it. Then she didn’t read it for months on end. Then she did. “Read this,” she said. “I cried at the end.”
What could be more beautiful than being recommended a book by your daughter or your son? And what a beautiful book to be recommended; a fragile, lovely thing written with precision, ambition and an emotional intensity which sometimes threatens to spill over into pathos but never, ever does. It’s narrated by Death. It’s set in Germany during the Second World War. It concerns a girl called Liesel who is taught to read by her foster father and becomes a book thief. It’s amazing.