During World War II, a blind girl, Marie-Laure LeBlanc, is forced to flee Paris with her father. Werner Pfennig, a German boy from a coal-mining town, has the opportunity to go to a prestigious boy’s school. Their paths cross for less than a day, but they are more connected than either of them realize.
I loved this book. It’s definitely not my usual read, but the writing was so beautiful and the story was surprisingly gripping. I liked the chapters switching between Marie-Laure and Werner along with some of the other characters. Overall, I felt like the characters were all so interesting. I loved Marie-Laure’s uncle and the people from the village. Werner’s sister, Jutta, was a great character as well, along with the other people from the orphanage. Everyone just felt so real and fully developed. It almost felt like this was a nonfiction book. These people just have to be real! And I think that’s the beauty of it. This story may not have actually happened, but these things and the events in the story did happen to someone and often more than one person.
Let’s start with the writing. AMAZING. My husband is really the one who appreciates and gains utility from good writing. I usually don’t care so much about that as long as the plot and characters are good. But I could not help but to fall in love with how the author wrote this book. Here’s a non-spoilery quote:
“The sky drops silver threads of sleet. Gray houses run in converging lines to the horizon, bunched as if to fend off cold.” -pg 218
And the whole book is like that! The imagery is so vivid and poetic.
Okay, characters. Like I mentioned earlier, they were all amazingly realistic. In this story we follow a German boy and a French girl. There are no heroes and there is no right and wrong. Even though history has shown us how bad a guy Hitler really is, from Werner’s perspective being a Nazi isn’t really such a bad thing. Basically, he’s just joined the army and he’s getting an amazing education out of it. I absolutely fell in love with Marie-Laure. She’s been blind since around six or seven, but she’s so strong and independent and brave and SMART. What an amazing girl. Her relationship with her Father nearly brought me to tears a couple of times and her relationship with Etienne was so tender as well.
There wasn’t a very aggresive plot (which usually would be a bad thing in my book) but the characters kept the story moving along. Like I mentioned earlier, the story felt so real. We weren’t given a traditional happy ending, but those don’t really exist in real life anyway. There isn’t an ending at all really. Life just keeps going even after we die. That being said, the author does a very good job of making the ending feel resolved–or at least, as resolved as life can be. There are still a few loose ends, but those always exist.
Overall, such a good book and definitely one that I’ll be adding to my collection and rereading. I cried, I laughed, and I felt things. So many emotions. What a story and definitely deserving of the Pulitzer Prize.
Overall Rating: 5
Violence: Heavy. It’s set during World War II so there is violence, but nothing too explicit.
Language: Moderate. Some strong language is sprinkled throughout (especially during Werner’s sections when he’s out in the field.)
Sexual Content: Mild. Occasional innuendos, one scene of rape (not explicit)