AUTHOR – ANTHONY DOERR
PUBLISHED IN – 2014
PAGES – 530
Drum rolls. It’s the awaited birthday book! Continuing with my tradition to gift myself a book every year on my birthday, I got myself this marvel this year.
It is based during the time of the WWII and Hitler’s reign and how it had an impact on the lives of the characters of the book. There are two lead protagonists. Marie-Laure is a blind girl who lives with her father in France and Werner is an orphan who lives in Germany in an orphanage along with his younger sister.
Marie-Laure’s father was a skilled locksmith in a museum. He also crafted various locks for his daughter to open by figuring out a pattern. He made a miniature model of their neighborhood so that she could feel it with her hands and know the way around on her own. As Germany attacks France, they are forced to flee and the museum entrusts him a rare diamond called Sea of flames which is said to be legendary. I loved the way the relationship between the father-daughter was portrayed. It is not very easy to do that because fathers rarely ever portray that they love their children directly. They always do so in discreet means. And it was heart warming to read those.
Werner was interested in science and the working of the whole world at a young age. He wanted to become an electrical engineering and not a coal miner as they were expected to be. He experiments with the working of radios and soon enough he masters the art of fixing radios within minutes, no matter what complicated model it was. One thing leads to other, the people became aware of his ability and he is accepted into a prestigious school where another professor takes an interest in him and he begins to master the art of detecting the coordinates of people if they broadcast on the radio. The army take him in and he goes around detecting the locations of the people who were trying to pass messages during the war on the radio. He brings death on them. He is bound by his conscience and doesn’t know how his simple interest in radios has brought him to such a stage where he cannot even face himself. He is unable to write letters to his sister, too guilty of what he is doing.
The book binds the story so beautifully and gives a proper closure to each of the characters. Of course, I hated the way it was for some of the characters. Not everyone gets a happy ending when there is a war going on. It hurt me to read those last couple of chapters because I knew it wasn’t pretty but it was fair. This book is a must read for anyone who wishes to fall in love with innocent characters and then feel the pain along with them as they try to fight their own battles.
There was a scene in which Marie-Laure was reading out the chapters of Twenty thousand leagues under the sea, broadcasting on the radio to whoever was listening and then playing a piece of a classical music. How important it was! Why? During the times of stress and complete chaos, there is nothing which provides the mind a piece of rest than listening to a story or a piece of music. Often I find myself reading books when I am highly disturbed. It is like when you know that there is nothing that you can do, you must divert your brain to think about someone else’s story and give your heart a rest. There was a similar scene in The Book Thief where the Liesel was reading aloud her book to the terrified people who were gathered together to save themselves from an air strike. Everyone listened to her and found their own peace.
There must be something so so horrible about wars that it makes even the dullest life of an individual living in that era interesting.
“Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.”
“Don’t you want to be alive before you die?”
“All your life you wait, and then it finally comes, and are you ready?”
“When I lost my sight, Werner, people said I was brave. When my father left, people said I was brave. But it is not bravery; I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don’t you do the same?”
“We rise again in the grass. In the flowers. In songs.”
“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 favorite 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.”