Warning: This is a long review for a book I loved.
The book begins with the story of Marie-Laure and Werner. Marie Laure is a French girl who is 6 at the beginning of the story and Werner a German boy with hair of snow of 8 and his sister Jutta. The story evolves in time frames and scenes. Eventually war begins and everything changes for these two characters. During the process of the story we find a mythical element. A diamond capable of providing eternal life at the cost of the love ones around you. Marie-Laure flees to the country side with her father to live with her uncle who owns a big radio. Werner is a genius boy who can fix any kind of radios and eventually is sent on the front lines to hunt down through mathematics broadcasters. At the end of the book the stories do collide, though in a much different fashion than expected. Like all war stories filled with pain and heartbreaks and the hope for another day. I smiled as the end approached. I cried when it wasn't what I wanted. I resigned when it I accepted this is how war is. Making me wish it does not ever happen again.
“So how, children, does the brain, which lives without a spark of light, build for us a world full of light?”
I was hooked from the first line of the book. I started reading and it was not even melodic, but just so smooth. Almost like a soft brush painting images in my head through the words of Doerr at the rhythm of a melancholic classic piano pieces People might criticize the over-Americanized vocabulary, but it was exactly this which made the imagery so vivid in my head. Short sentences, easy vocabulary and yet beautifully composed. Almost as if he polished every single sentence to perfection to match the previous one.
The characters take you by the heart and the soul and even the mind. Well developed. Fully dimensional with their struggles to find their place in a chaotic time. Marie-Laure, a blind French girl who is both brave and smart, loves to read and wants to know everything about the world. Werner who also has a thirst of knowledge, a kind heart, a sister who is both his consciousness and best friend and who's fault is simply the need to survive. He was not painted as a hero, but as who he truly was. And this I applaud.
I was expecting the plot to be slightly different. Two hearts finding each other and communicating through the radio despite the oppressions. What I got was a heartwarming story of survival and courage. The two characters grow up in the middle of the WWII, loosing everything dear to them and yet holding on to that past to keep them alive, with the hope that it will all be over and they will go back to the safety of their past. The plot is then intensified with the diamond of eternal life. Hunted down by a man who is destined to die and yet will do anything it takes not to. This puts Marie-Laure in danger.
As I said, different from what I expected. But I loved it. I loved the writing, the strong short sentences. The narration. The stories inside the stories. But one thing stuck in my head, whatever happened to happy endings? Authors begin to write tragic real endings, which is depressing me when I read. Taking me days to get back up and forget those poor poor characters. These kind of endings are now becoming a sort of cliché. I need some sort of Project Rosie again to clear the emotional mess this book has left me.
My favorite part of the book was the scene where Etienne is broadcasting the numbers, followed by a classical piece and forgetting the microphone was on, he dances with Marie-Laure. Her laughter crossing oceans like the ghost of a once happy human existence. It brought me chills as this image was conjured in my head, the most beautiful and eerie thing. In the middle of a war, imagining fishermen listening to the laughter of a girl through the radio.
A wonderfully written book on what connect us and the magic of a world evolving in connectivity which gets us through the darkest times. Beautiful characters, amazing descriptions which play live in your head and touch your heart. Read it.