Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is 12, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.
In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.
©2014 Anthony Doerr (P)2014 Simon & Schuster Audio
I am a young dog who finds literature fascinating. Both my mother and father are English teachers, so being a reader was inevitable.
This novel helps the reader understand what it was like to be trapped in the machinations of World War II. Because the two protagonists are children in 1934, they are not able to escape the coming war. The girl is French, while the boy is German. Each are rendered even more powerless by inescapable circumstances: Marie-Laure is blind, while Werner is an orphan. Doerr plunges the reader into their experience of the war through precisely described vignettes--fragments of their experience that resonate powerfully.
The two characters eventually meet, and these scenes are haunting.
If you are a reader who enjoyed the poetic, humanism of The English Patient or the masterful point-of-view of Code Name Verity or the intense personal quality of All Quiet in the Western Front, you will love this book.
The story is absolutely riveting in itself, but the way the writer parses his words creates a spareness that matches the emotional trauma the two characters stoically endure.
What a wonderfully well written story, and a fine narrator. I find it refreshing when the narration is done simply, without changing the voice significantly for different characters. For me, this is much less distracting than a male making his voice light and high for female characters, and vice versa for a woman narrator. What a pleasure this book was, in every way. I will probably listen to it again some day.
Say something about yourself!
As someone who is legally blind, I loved reading how Doer brought to life the world of a young blind girl. That is the thing that initially caught my attention when I heard the NY Times review of this novel.
Oh, I just adore the character of Etienne, the uncle who must decide whether to sink into the PTSD he incurred during The Great War--or whether to help his blind niece during WWII. His character is so intricate, so damaged, and so lovely. I really cherish the relationship he develops with Marie Luare (not sure If I'm spelling that right, because I can't see how the author spells it).
Friendship across enemy lines.
The NY Times made a comment that Anthony Doer could be a literary writer. I already considered him so, and partly listened to this book to prove the Times wrong. Happy to say, I believe fervently that this is a very strong literary foray. I don't know what other category I'd put it in. Very strong story, strong writing, and good characters who develop and learn.
A wonderful story of young people caught in the net of the Nazis in WWII. In this book Anthony Doerr shows the tragedy from both inside the Nazi party, and on the life of a blind young French woman. A classic story about doing the right thing, at the risk of your own life. I loved the book.
The only reason I can think that someone would give this beautiful book a poor review is that they're jealous that they didn't write it. Do they not like the narrator? Zach is great, but honestly Kermit the Frog could read it to me and I would still listen. Get this book and tell all your friends. (But, don't tell your friends that you listened to it because then they'll get all self-righteous about how they could never listen because they just love to hold a book in their hands and they'll judge you and they'll correct you in public if you mention that you "read" a book when you really listened to a book.)
Avid audible listener for over 10 years.
This was a rather good book. I loved the story. It was well written. But it is one of those books that is really tough to follow as an audiobook. There are two major storylines that jump back and forth and then forward and backward in time in a single chapter. If you don't pay attention you will be lost quite quickly.
The book is good and does not end as you would expect. Read this, don't listen.
The audio version is beautifully performed. I have not read the book.
There are many many memorable moments. This is a book that I will savor over and over again and I rate it in my top ten books of all time.
Anthony Doerr's novel shimmers with beauty.
What a beautiful story! One of my favorite authors, Kate Morton, recommended this novel on Facebook, which was good enough reason for me to check it out. I used one of my precious Audible.com credits to purchase the audiobook version narrated by Zach Appelman.
This is one of those books that you just hate to have end, though you know it must. And when you've read those final words on that last page, there's that sense of loss. And the feeling that you don't want to forget these characters, the things they endured, the places they inhabited.
The writing is exquisite; marvelous use of language. The narrative switches back-and-forth in time throughout, and at times I wished it was simply told in a linear progression. I doubt I would have lost interest if the author had opted to simply tell it that way, but these days it seems every-other novel I read is told in this way. So, I'm learned to adapt.
Zach Appelman tells the story with tenderness and a reverence for the characters, for their plight. Very well done.
I hear voices. But maybe that's because there's always an Audible book in my ear.
It seems that sometimes the best way to understand how big events impact the world is to get a glimpse of how they impact individual people. That is exactly what happens with this book.
You can read the summary and know the book is set in WWII and two children are involved. I've read plenty about the war, but this book gave me just a little more insight into kids and what they went through at the time. In addition, Marie-Laure's situation is even more unique. I kept thinking throughout the book about people with disabilities and what they do when the world around them goes upside down.
About the narration ... I wasn't impressed at first. As the book went on, I really came to appreciate his style of narration. He doesn't inhabit the characters. He reads the story. In this particular case, it worked for me. I think if he'd used a voice appropriate for a 14-year-old French girl, it would have been very odd. A competent reading is all that was necessary.
When I started listening to this story, I realized it was the wrong novel for me at this particular time. I needed something lighter. I kept telling myself I'd stop listening and go back to it at another time...but the writing kept me hooked. Something was going on here that went beyond the two children whose day-to-day lives Doerr was describing.
I am so glad I kept listening. The story builds and builds. The two children's lives connect in magical ways...and towards the last third of the novel, you find yourself holding your breath.
I don't want to give anything away. Does it have a happy ending? Does it have a sad ending? You'll have to listen for yourselves. I highly recommend the experience. It couldn't be more real, or human.
Can't wait for Mr. Doerr's next novel.
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