Set during World War II, this novel delicately and seamlessly weaves the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner together in a way that is spellbinding. The story of Marie-Laure LeBlanc, the much adored blind daughter of a French museum locksmith, and Werner Pfennig, a brilliant orphan turned German soldier, is a story of wonder, self-preservation, love, and the human desire for redemption.
Marie-Laure was a young child when she lost her sight, and only 12 when she and her father fled Paris to live obscurely in the French countryside with an agoraphobic uncle until the war ended. Marie-Laure did not know of the treasure they carried with them. Werner and his sister lived in an orphanage in Germany and had little time or resources for entertainment, until Werner discovered the world of radio waves with spare parts and his inherent ability to understand circuitry. He and his sister would stay up through the night listening to a gentleman broadcast a children’s show from worlds away. That very talent led Werner to attend the academy for Hitler Youth, tearing him from his sister and the only home he knew. Both Marie-Laure and Werner were set on dreadful paths not of their choosing, yet their lives would intersect tenderly amidst the chaos.
Each character is so clearly developed and vividly portrayed, I felt akin to them. This book is not simply set in World War II, it transports the reader to occupied France. The voice of Marie-Laure makes you feel her blindness, listening to and feeling the world around her, as that world crumbles. The voice of Werner sets your heart racing with fear: fear of losing everyone he cared about, of enduring the merciless academy for Hitler Youth, of giving his life for country.
From the very first chapter, it was difficult to put down. Doerr’s language is like poetry, conveying volumes of insight and feeling, yet this novel reads easily. I could read this book again and again.
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