, World War II, Pulitzer Prize.
This novel was fascinating. The quick jumps between characters, places, and times should be jarring, but the language of Anthony Doerr elevates it, and draws you in with vivid descriptions, gorgeous metaphors and an intertwining story that comes together beautifully.
Marie-Laure is growing up in Paris. She’s never seen the Eiffel Tower, the gas light boulevards, or the Cathedral of Notre Dame. She’s never even seen the Museum of Natural History where her father is employed as the Master of Locks. She is blind. Marie-Laure learns to navigate by feeling her way around the intricate city models that her father makes. Beyond models of Paris and intricate locks, her father makes puzzle boxes and other treats for Marie-Laure.
Werner is growing up in an orphanage in rural Germany. He see the sights of his mining town’s boom as Germany increases production. He protects his sister Jutta as they are enchanted by the radio that Werner finds and repairs. His talents for radio repair land him at an elite academy for the Hitler Youth.
Over the course of the book you see how both of these characters struggle and adapt to their situations. Marie-Laure and her father leave Paris with what might be the prize gem of the collection and make their way to Saint Malo on the coast, shortly after, her father is captured, leaving her in the care of her eccentric great uncle. Werner survives the academy and excels at finding illicit radio transmissions, but is more and more horrified at the results that his actions lead to.
I liked the book overall. It did take a while to get used to the short chapters, some only 1 or 2 pages at a time, but it eventually fades from notice as you follow both characters as they weave their way through life in occupied France. I also really liked Doerr’s depiction of Marie-Laure’s blindness, it was interesting experiencing life from her perspective. One of the best novels that I’ve read this year.