Author: Anthony Doerr
Series/Stand Alone: Stand Alone
Genre: Historical Fiction Drama
Why I read this book: I had read great things about it and then saw that it had won the pulitzer so I decided to give it a read
The story takes place just as World War II begins to unfold and follows two young kids lives as they grow up on opposite sides of war torn Europe.
First off I just wanted to say how amazing this book is, no critical or analytical element to this, it was just AMAZING. I could only dream of writing a story so powerful, intricate and tender.
The characters throughout this entire story were so incredibly rich and full of such life and detail that it seemed as if they would jump off the page at any moment. I specifically loved the women character’s in this novel, Marie Laure (of course), Madame Manec, and Jutta. These girls were forces to be reckoned with from the start. Despite Marie Laure’s handicap she was someone I aspire to be due to her pure love for those around her and her desire to explore and learn all that she could. She seemed to bring out the best in everyone she met. For example with Etienne, an old man who had been cooped up in his home for over twenty years, Marie Laure was the reason he ventured out into the real world. Marie Laure was also someone who motivated and inspired Madame Manec to keep her underground revolution alive even when things got rough. Overall, Marie Laure is by far one of my favorite protagonists and her perspective is one of the most unique I’ve come across.
Werner, on the other hand, is a whole other story. To me he was such a delicate character, and was represented a more realistic experience during the war than Marie Laure’s story did. His fear and innocence were portrayed so wonderfully I thought and Doerr really managed to capture the lack of control Werner felt in the Hitler Youth school and during the war overall. I thought his death was very abrupt and sudden, not that that’s a bad thing but I didn’t expect it coming at all. It makes sense looking at the book as a whole, but when I was right in the heart of it it was a complete shock.
Something I think I loved even more than the characters (which is saying a lot) is the imagery and motifs in this book, specifically the radio and the snails. One of my favorite parts of the whole story is when we saw the connection between Marie Laure’s grandfather’s broadcasts and Werner and Jutta. To me at least it showed that a love for, well anything, can transcend battle fields and cultural boundaries. And that despite being on opposites sides of a world war, people can still find connections. The snails also were fascinating to me, I haven’t quite wrapped my mind around the meaning behind them but their presence throughout Marie Laure’s life and her connection to them was unexpectedly captivating. You never think of snails as something comforting or even intriguing, and yet Doerr shines a whole new light on them, making them seem almost relatable.
However, the one complaint (well I wouldn’t say complaint but rather comment) I had was that the title seemed a little off to me. I didn’t quite understand how it connected to the story as a whole. I understand that Marie Laure is blind so she physically can’t see light but I would think the title would have a little more depth then that…It didn’t seem to me that light was a huge motif throughout the novel so I was a little confused looking back on it after I had finished the story. Oh well
Overall I give this book an A++. Doerr’s knowledge on everything spanning from diamonds to snails in itself is astounding, not to mention how he succeeded in stringing it all together to create this breath taking story of two children’s struggle to find love and passion despite insurmountable outside forces.