This is an excellent telling of a compelling story of two young people in World War II. Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind girl living in Paris with her father who is a locksmith for the national museum. Werner Pfennig is a young German orphan living with his sister Jutta in a coal mining town. He loves building radios and wants desperately to free himself of the mining life which killed his father.
Their lives move from disparate places in 1940 until they intersect in Saint Malao in August 1944. Werner is enrolled in the National Political Institute of Education #6 at Schulpforta. The novel creates a excruciatinlgy sense of dread as we see the cruelty and evil the young Nazis are taught. Werner “laces his boots and sings the songs and marches the marches, acting less out of duty than out of a timeworn desire to be dutiful.” (p 277). But he is dutiful.
Of Marie-Laure Doerr writes “To shut your eyes is to guess nothing of blindness. Beneath your world of skies and faces and building exists a rawer and oldr world, a place where surface planes disintegrate and sounds ribbon in shoals through the air.” (p390) Marie-Laure follows her father from Paris to Saint Malao to escape the war as the invasion of France begins. But of course the war follows them.
The novel provides a sweeping view of both sides of the war while providing a gripping story of two young people caught up in the whirlwind. The tension continues to increase until I thought I couldn’t take it anymore. I could barely stand to read the early Schulpforta scenes. By the middle I could barely stand to put it down.
It’s difficult to say too much about this without giving spoilers. Suffice it to say it is on the New York Times best seller list for a reason. Get a copy of this book and read it.