Author: Anthony Doerr
‘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.’
The writing in this book is very beautiful and almost poetic. The story jumps back and forth between the two character’s perspectives as well as in time so it can get a little confusing but the short chapters make it easy to navigate the different times and perspectives.
If you are into historical fiction then this is a book you should pick up by all means. I enjoy reading stories based on that specific point in time (World War II), and this story in particular is very evocative and heartbreaking. The characters are very ordinary people who are profoundly affected by the war. They find themselves in situations largely driven by circumstance rather than choice. The fact that they are on ‘different sides’ of the war makes their meeting even more beautiful and meaningful.
‘When I lost my sight, Werner, people said I was brave. When my father left, people said I was brave. But it is not bravery; I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don’t you do the same?’