Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for sending me this novel.
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 neighbourhood so she can memorise 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 was lucky enough to be sent this book and from the huge amount of publicity this book had I immediately picked it up as soon as I finished a previous book....
We follow Marie-Laure a blind girl and her experience of an occupied France during World War II, living with her father a man working in the local museum where a mysterious "Sea of Flames" object is kept. It's this mystery of an object that holds are imagination throughout this tale, certainly a different twist on a war novel.
Marie-Laure has the ability to make us the reader open up our own eyes and appreciate all that we see, pleasant or not. The beauty of nature is a sight that we may lose at any point, just like she had when she was only six years old. She's a fascinating character and full of wisdom with some very powerful quotes about life for one so young.
The story also follows Werner a German boy who progressively learns to construct radios and this is how both Werner and Marie-Laure's stories tie in together during the latter half of the book.
I've seen that many have compared this book to The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, I personally don't see how they can be compared. In my opinion this book touched me in different ways entirely, yes they're both sad but in no way could I say they're on the same level. I felt that I didn't connect so well with the characters in this book as much as I'd like to which is perhaps why I can't give it a five star rating.
I'm not sure I can convey all my feelings for this book as there's so much to discuss that would give away the mystery of it, but with a tremendous setting and at a poignant part in European history, this read is definitely worth a read. Unpredictable in many ways but with the inevitability of great sadness too, I found the story rather beautiful.
Anthony Doerr is the author of five books; The Shell Collector, About Grace, Memory Wall, Four Seasons in Rome and All The Light We Cannot see and has won many awards. He lives in Boise, Idaho.