“What mazes there are in this world. The branches of trees, the filigree of roots, the matrix of crystals, the streets her father recreated in his models… None more complicated than the human brain, Etienne would say, what may be the most complex object in existence; one wet kilogram within which spin universes.”
What is this book about?
Marie-Laure is a blind girl living in Paris with her Father. Werner is an orphan, living in a mining town in Germany with his sister. We follow both children and get to see how they grow up during the second world war and how this ultimately brings them together. Their coming of age story gets intertwined with a mystery surrounding a precious gemstone and it’s curse that befalls on whoever carries it.
Why is it boring?
It’s again one of those war stories that shows you how awful war is, but also that the people behind the atrocities are still people. If you hate nuanced storytelling, then just leave this book alone. Don’t even try it.
Who would you recommend it to?
If you like war stories with a human angle, than this is your thing. Doerr does such an amazing job writing from all these different perspectives, following civilians like Marie-Laure, her father and Uncle, but also Werner who is part of the Hitler Jugend and his friends and superiors. With every sentence he brings these characters alive and you will start to feel for every single one of them, no matter what they’ve done.
Why should I read it if it’s boring?!
The writing alone is worth it. Doerr paints such vivid images with words that you will be transported from European town to town with every chapter. Especially the descriptions of Saint-Malo are amazing and you will just want to move into his words and live there forever. Besides this, I found very impressive how he was able to write such an original story about a subject that has been written about so often. There are plenty of war stories written from these perspectives, but I still felt like this book had something new to add. Doerr came up with such intriguing characters, such as Marie-Laure’s father, who builds intricate scale models of Paris and Saint-Malo, just so his blind daughter can learn to find her way around. For me, it often were these smaller characters that I found most interesting and even though they don’t get that much screen time, I never felt like I didn’t know them. Doerr will sprinkle just enough information about everyone on the periphery through Marie-Laure’s and Werner’s story that you will feel connected to every single character in this novel. The plot goes to unexpected places, taking some twists and turns, with the mentioned gem stone that supposedly has a curse on it. The book never veers into magical realism, but the fleshing out of the world with these details, makes the entire thing come alive. Doerr might have taken 10 years to craft this story, but in that time he wrote a novel that fits together superbly.