This book has been making the 2014 Best-of Lists, as well as the round amongst my friends and Cannonball Readers. Of course, that also means it’s been impossible to lay hold of a copy at my library, so I’ve been waiting for months. And when I finally got it in my mitts, I devoured it like a box of chocolates. I’ve read a lot of great books already for CBR7, and this is already a favorite.
The novel tells the story of two different people: Marie-Laure, a young blind girl in Paris and then in Saint-Melo, France, and Werner, a gifted German boy whose skills with radio and technology bring him out of the orphans’ home and into training as a Nazi soldier. The story moves backward and forward in time, from the 1930s, up to the present moment, but hovering in 1944, when the novel reaches its crisis point. Marie-Laure and Werner cross paths in an unexpected way, and their lives will never be the same.
Is it possible to find a novel incredibly beautiful and wholly devastating all at once? Yes. This is a gorgeously written novel, and it captures the complexity of human experience in a way that I cannot convey. The chapters are short, and I found myself reading at a breakneck pace to get to the next piece of the story, especially when it unexpectedly moves forward in time. You could definitely draw comparisons to Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, but Marie-Laure and Werner are so different that the novel stands on its own merits. The characters are finely drawn, and the plot is intricate and interesting. I don’t always like the plot jumps, but I did here, especially because the moves forward in time make the backward moves that much more rewarding–you know what will happen, so you get to find out how it comes together.
Doerr is a masterful writer, and I am greatly looking forward to seeing what else he has written.