How might one best describe the mood of Markus Zusak's novel The Book Thief?

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The introduction of the Book Thief establishes the idea that this will be a dark story since the narrator himself is Death, which obviously references his activities and his interactions with people.

However, after this opening, the book starts off as a lively, if somewhat downcast, story by laying out...

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The introduction of the Book Thief establishes the idea that this will be a dark story since the narrator himself is Death, which obviously references his activities and his interactions with people.

However, after this opening, the book starts off as a lively, if somewhat downcast, story by laying out the experiences of the two protagonists, Liesel and Rudy. Both of their characters and their personalities are laid out, and we see many undercurrents of both happiness and unhappiness.

As the book progresses and Germany enters World War II, the story becomes far darker. The introduction of the character Max, a Jew who hides in their basement from the Nazi authorities, demonstrates both the brutality of the regime and the ability of Liesel to use books to escape from its harshness. Further on, the shortages of the war hit both Liesel and her family. It also takes her adopted father up into the Nazi apparatus itself.

The onslaught of the war, in tandem with the fact that many of the characters in the story are not outright supporters of the Nazis, makes the mood deteriorate. However, as Liesel collects more books, there are underpinnings of hope, ending with her statement that she has hated and loved the words.

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The mood, or overall feeling of the novel, is established right from the very beginning, when the narrator introduces himself as "Death" and provides a helpful overview of his life's work:  collecting souls from the dead, none of whom normally interest him at all.  However, on one occasion, his curiousity gets the better of him when he encounters the eventful and often dangerous life of one Liesel Meminger. 

While a novel opening with a narrator named Death, set in Nazi Germany during World War II, will of necessity probably not be real heavy on the laughs, it is nonetheless the story of a survivor, and as such, the mood, while always serious, does not necessarily require a tragic ending.  There is plenty of tragedy, of course, in The Book Thief, but the novel ends with a hopeful note of optimism.  Liesel learns some important lessons about her ability to write the truth in the face of Hitler's evil propaganda machine, saying "I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right," and the reader is also able to infer that Liesel will marry one day and manage to find happiness in life despite all of the heartbreak she has witnessed.

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