For Marie-Laure, blind since the age of six, the world is full of mazes. The miniature of a Paris neighbourhood, made by her father to teach her the way home. The microscopic layers wihin the invaluable diamond that her father guards in the Museum of National History. The walled city by the sea, where the father and daughter take refuge when the Nazis invade Paris. And a future which draws her ever closer to Werner, a German orphan, destined to labour in the mines until a broken radio fills his life with possibility and brings him to the notice of the Hitler Youth.
The novel is about Marie-Laure, a French girl and Werner, a German boy, their childhood and the war that brought them together.
Werner lived with his sister Jutta in an orphanage. He was very smart and has a talent with regards to radios and stuff. He went to Schulpftora, a school that honed and developed the ‘Hitler Youth.” Later on, he was sent to the front line.
Marie-Laure was living in Paris with his father and when the war broke out, they moved to Saint Malo and alived with her Uncle. She and her Uncle Etienne became instruments to the revolution by broadcasting numbers and messages.
Werner was able to track them but instead of turning them in, he saved Marie-Laure.
Whenever I read or watch stories or documentaries about the Nazi invasion, the focus would always be about the Germans & the Russians and this was my first time to have read a story with a French setting (at least half of the novel) and there’s such a big difference on the ‘feel.’ For me, the French setting made the story pretty as spring was mentioned, flowers, fruits, boulangerie, the sea and snails whereas German-Russian stories would always be bitter, bloody and cold.
Pre & post war stories are usually ugly, bitter and sad, and this novel is no different. However, this one, for me, is a bit lighter to read. Maybe because the main characters are kids and they were just teenagers when the war ended, that the way they told their stories were a bit innocent and though sad, hopeful.
I love how the author beautifully described the ocean on two different occasions; I’ve included them on the take home lines below.
Take Home Lines
-Sometimes the eye of the hurricane is the safest place to be.
-The ocean. The ocean! Right in front of her! So close all this time. It sucks and booms and splashes and rumbles; it shifts and dilates and falls over itself;
When she raises her face to the sky, she can feel the thousand tiny spines of raindrops melt onto her cheeks, her forehead. She hears Madam Manec’s raspy breathing, and the deep sounding of the sea among the rocks, and the calls of someone down the beach echoing off the high walls……Why didn’t they tell her it would be like this?
(This was Marie-Laure’s reaction when she was brought to the beach for the very first time)
-“Seventy-six years old,” she whispers, “and I can still feel like this? Like a little girl with stars in my eyes?”
(I think I can use this line all the time)
-Racial purity, political purity – Bastian speaks to a horror of any sort of corruption, and yet, Werner wonders in the dead of the night, isn’t life a kind of corruption? A child is born, and the world sets in upon it. Taking things from it. Stuffing things into it. Each bite of food, each particle of light entering the eye – the body can never be pure.
-This is Werner’s letter to Jutta where he described the sea.
Sorry I have not written these past months. The fever is mostly gone now and you should not worry. I have been feeling very clearheaded lately and what I want to write about today is the sea. It contains so many colors. Silver at dawn, green at noon, dark blue in the evening. Sometimes it looks almost red. Or it will turn the color of old coins. Right now the shadows of clouds are dragging across it, and patches of sunlight are touching down everywhere. White strings of gulls drag over it like beads.
It is my favourite thing, I think, that I have ever seen. Sometimes I catch myself staring at it and forget my duties. It seems big enough to contain everything anyone could ever feel.
Say hello to Frau Elena and the children who are left.
-So how, children, does the brain, which lives without a spark of light, build for us a world full of light?
-That something so small could be so beautiful. Worth so much. Only the strongest people can turn away from feelings like that.
All in all it was a good read and I would definitely recommend this book.