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.
I really should write my reviews immediately after having read a book. It's so much harder to go back and remember thoughts and insights. I've contemplated taking notes while I read, but just never get around to it.
World War 2 as a literary setting just fascinates me. Especially coming from an American perspective. Our perspective is so different because the war never physically touched our country. Pearl Harbor, yes, but Pearl Harbor was so far away from the mainland. It affected our country because of our men and women who fought in that war and we had coastal blackouts and rationing, etc., but America as a whole wasn't bombed and we never felt those actual, physical effects. Our first real registered attacks came with 9/11. So reading about the European war experiences is compelling. We ask ourselves what would we have done? How would bombings and occupations affected us? Would we resist because it was right by choice or by pressure? And the answer is that we don't know.
In reading this book, similar questions come to mind. Should I help with the resistance? Should I simply go into hiding? Do I help this person when this war says they're my enemy?
The narration of the story moves between the perspectives of Marie-Laure and Werner as well as jumping back and forth between time lines. We get peeks into the future, but it's not until the story wraps up that we see how it all comes together. Normally that might frustrate me, but it worked here.
The prose is gorgeous. The writing lyrical. Marie-Laure was a remarkable character; so strong and resourceful. The history of the Brittany occupation was previously unfamiliar to me.
One main question remains unanswered and that was frustrating although the discussion and speculation that decision promotes was good. But, just as the book's title infers, we don't see the whole story at once or even at all. There are still secrets and knowledge unknown.
Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow. You can purchase your own copy here.
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