“Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.”
Outstanding. This book was a mesmerizingly beautiful experience with eloquent characters and a hauntingly beautiful premise. Antony Doerr created an outstanding story that depicted World War II in a whole new light. Using children as his characters created a new layer of the story that made this book stand out.
Marie Laurie a little girl who goes blind when she is 8. She lives in France with her father who works at the museum as a locksmith. Her father creates a miniature scale model of the town they live in and teachers her how to navigate the world without her eyes.
Werner is an orphan boy living in a German orphanage. He is a curious, smart boy who has a fascination for radios. He quickly finds himself wrapped up in a Hitler training camp and finds himself thrust into war.
The war quickly changes both Werner and Marie Laurie’s lives and the story follows their lives as they change from these innocent children into survivors.
I think my most favorite feature of this book was the separate yet intertwined characters. Although Marie and Werner only meet fleetingly at the end, it seems that their stories are together throughout the whole book. I loved the way that Doerr crafted these separate, almost opposite lives of his two characters and somehow made them almost the same. They were both struggling to see what they wanted, both struggling to understand life and the war, both trying to cope with a situation that wasn’t ideal. I love how they both had a “rock” that they looked to for support and that both were forced to handle difficult situations without that person. I especially loved the subtle radio that connected the two characters from the very beginning.
Doerr managed to take such an ugly event and craft this beautiful story of loss and growing up and lessons learned. He crafted strong characters that you rooted for without them feeling superficial. The support characters were heartwarming and strange yet fit so perfectly into the story. I love the ending. Like, bawled my eyes out for the entire last section of the book good. It was such an unexpected and heartwarming way to end the book. I loved that it didn’t end perfectly, or even how most would want it, but it ended perfect for the book.
Its funny that I don’t think about the diamond often. The undercurrent of this book is about a wanted jewel that is housed in the museum that Marie’s father works at. The jewel is supposed to have a curse on it where the keeper of the jewel is safe while all those around him are befallen with the worst luck. When the war breaks out, 3 copies of the jewel are made and Marie’s father takes a pouch with him as they flee their city. Does he have the real jewel or a fake? I like the added story of morals and family, about right and wrong and real and fake. I love that Doerr always uses a double edged sword. I loaf of bread is not always a loaf of bread, a radio is not always just a radio, and a rock is not always just a rock. Each of those things could teach a lesson or could prove a point as well.
I will say, that this book was hard; exceptionally hard. It flips from Marie to Werner every chapter which is around 1-5 pages. On top of that it switches from pre-war to war every section which can last 15 pages or more. I found that I had to flip back to remind myself where we were in the story. I found this to be different and I loved it. It created an experience in the book, you had to focus and really absorb what was going on so that you could pull from the next section and tie back what was happening. It made me have to really live the book, feel the characters and engross myself with the plot. What a wonderful experience to actually live a book, like I was walking through the pages of Saint Malo as those final bombs were dropping. I felt as if I was following Marie as she counted road grates and went to the bakery for bread.
I highly recommend this story for anyone that loves a good book. I have read reviews and I honestly feel that the bad reviews were because these people didn’t live this story. It is a hard book with a hard premise to grasp. There are whispers of connections between the characters throughout the whole book and if you don’t sit back and enjoy the experience, you might miss them.