Everyone knows the story: the concentration camps, the air raids, the casualties. Everyone knows the story of how one man set off with the intention of ruling Europe and creating a master race. Everyone knows the story of the bodies he left behind him. However, no one knows the story of Death.

The only certainty in Death’s existence is that everyone else dies. He has witnessed every period of history and the worst of human existence. Always present in the most horrific times of man and some of the most touching. Death is there to take the souls and rarely sees the life but with one girl he gets to see her story.

The exact number of souls that death carried during World War Two isn’t known but around 60million people came to know his arms as he cradled them.

Markus Zusak grew up listening to stories of Nazi Germany and knew there was a tale to be told. His mother had lived in a small town that witnessed bombings and parades of captured Jews marched through it. The personal story that Zusak has known since childhood helps to make The Book Thief one of those rare books that will captivate you and change the way you look at books and the power of words.

Narrated by Death, the book is both heart warming and heart breaking. It shows the true power of words. The power they have to transform; to take countries from peace to war; the power they have to save lives or take lives; and the power they have to change the lives of a book thief, an accordionist and a jewish fist fighter.

Starting with the death of a young boy on a train to Munich as he and his sister make the journey to live with foster parents, Death notices young Liesel Meminger and stays to watch her. Two days later she buries her brother and commits her first act of book thievery. The Gravedigger’s Handbook is dropped by an apprentice at the cemetery where her brother comes to rest and unleashes an appetite for words that will follow Liesel for her whole life.

Surprised to open their door to just one child, Hans and Rosa Hubermann take in the book thief and more than they ever expected. Liesel is a difficult child, losing her brother and being forced away from home leaves her with nightmares and it is only the close bond she forms with her new Papa that makes her behave.

As she begins to settle in to her new home Liesel sees a quiet, caring man that always smells of tobacco and paint and a loud woman constantly surrounded by other people’s laundry. As her new Mama throws insults around the room she starts to feel safe and at home.

The strange lemon haired boy next door sprints his way into Liesel’s life. They form a lasting friendship built on first love, bicycle rides and mischief. Rudy provides a large portion of the heart that makes this book leave such a lasting impression. An impression only matched by a Jewish fist fighter.

During the First World War a young Jew saved Hans from death and causing his own, prompting Hans to promise the Jew’s wife that he would owe her a debt of gratitude for life. Years later a Jewish fist fighter turns up on his doorstep asking for refuge and clutching the Hubermann’s address like a lifeline and praying Hans would remember his mother and father.

Death follows these characters as they spend every day with only a thin veil between themselves and his arms. He watches them as they come across moral dilemmas they put themselves and those they love in danger. He watches them as words come to define their lives and books help them to live while carrying the danger that they could die.

“I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.”