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
"Afraid to Write a "Less-Than-Positive" Review"
I'm embarrassed and a little afraid to admit I was not a big fan of this book. One reviewer said that if you didn't like it, then you must be jealous of the author. Trust me. I am not jealous. I just have another opinion.
I thought this was a beautiful story. The characters were all well developed and I really got to know them. I loved that the author chose to write about teenagers and that one of the main characters was blind actually enhanced the book for me. The unbelievable horror of war and how it effects everyone was very well portrayed.
I have listened to many books that are not linear and usually enjoyed them. This book jumps back and forth in time, place and character over and over again. The narrator doesn't change his voice for the characters, so in the moment it took me to figure out where "we" were now, I would miss something. I do think this probably works better in written format.
However, the part I didn't like is what most people love and will probably make it win many awards. I found the book too descriptive and too poetic. Like another reviewer said, there were just too many metaphors. I got lost in the sugary details. I didn't enjoy the scientific detail, either. I don't care how many teeth a snail has. For me, it just got in the way. I can't wait until my daughter finishes reading it so I can get her opinion. Plus, even though I listened to the ending twice, I still am not sure what happened to the "stone".
"Time well spent"
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.
"Really tough to follow as an audiobook"
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.
"An outlyer's opinion"
This will likely enrage the other reviewers, but - and again this is just my opinion - I thought the writing was far too much an attempt at being poetic. Far too many metaphors, far too many dependent clauses - all, seemingly, in trying to create some beautiful prose. It did not for me. I did love the story and I was engaged in the characters and I did keep reading, but this despite the over-poetic approach and - kack - the horrible narration. His French was embarrassing and he simply did not impress me. But to each his own, right? I will now go and hide from the wrath of those who wrote of their love for the book.
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.
"Be prepared to love the characters."
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.
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.
"A remarkable listening experience"
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.
"Worth all the (5) Star reviews"
Not better, but equally beautiful. I alternated reading and listening. The narrator did a good job without overacting. The story is also very suspenseful.
I would compare it ( loosely) to "Beautiful Ruins".
It's a long book and not one to rush through. The chapters are short, the narratives moves between time periods and characters, and it is book that requires attention to see how even small events connect and build toward a larger picture.
In spite of the length, I was sad to finish the story and say goodbye to the characters.
"A Beautiful Story Narrated with Tenderness"
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.
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