Marie-Laure is left blind by disease, navigating her world by her father’s loving and careful instruction and the intricate, tiny models he makes to show her the way. Werner’s fascination with radio leads to his being taken to a Nazi training academy and into a career he can’t quite clear with his conscience. Their journeys and the journey of a cursed and extremely valuable jewel lead them on intriguing courses which eventually converge.
I really enjoyed this book. It managed to retain a beauty, innocence and fascination and humanity in the midst of a very real portrayal of war and horror. It was long, but I didn’t mind; each story as they were told was separately fascinating and enthralling. They didn’t converge as much as I expected; but it turned out that it didn’t really matter.
We also saw the perspective of various other characters as we travelled through the book, which added to the picture that was gradually being woven from the narratives and ideas.
Both our main characters had a perspective of the world that came from something smaller: Marie-Laure from the model city her father built for her, and Werner from the radios he is glued to. Somehow this allows them a perspective on the larger world that is at odds with many of the characters that surround them. Or, at least the prevailing ideas that we now assume surround them, for this book celebrates and suggests individuality of thought beyond any mantras or ideals.
It was unusual too to explore the worlds of someone who is partially deaf and someone who is blind. This was never allowed to be the prevailing fact about the character; it seemed incidental rather than defining, which was refreshing.
I think what I loved the most was the sense of wonder that was allowed to persist despite the desperate circumstances that the characters were within. Here we saw real jealousy, greed, cruelty, violence and lust, but horrible as it was it did not outweigh the glimmer of light. Our characters are exposed to and indeed commit real evil but there was still a semblance of hope for goodness.
I highly recommend this book, and would definitely read it again. It was beautifully written with a wide setting and remembering it opens up so many scenes, pictures and settings that captured my imagination. Just beautiful.