August 10, 2016 by Evelyn Summers
From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the beautiful, stunningly ambitious instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.
Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.
In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.
Books like these are a rare thing; when they come along, they are enough to make you rethink your entire review rating system. Because this – it’s perfection. This is what a five star book feels like to read, the words and metaphors sliding beautifully across the mind. And when it’s over, there’s that awful serenity, the realisation that although you can no longer ingest these characters and events, they will stay with you regardless.
Doerr has woven together three particular stories, three strands of a web that only cross for a split second, yet the feeling of fate, that entire events of these characters’ lives have occurred just to lead up to these fleeting moments, and the impacts they have on the characters, is something to behold. There is no typical wartime romance here; it is more evanescent, more haunting.
This is not a linear, typical tragic war story. It has an elegant, decadent structure: short but fast-paced chapters further in the past bracketed by slower ones leading to the climax, and concluding with a flourish of chapters set as near to the modern day as you can get.
Good luck finding anything to fill the void this diamond will leave behind.