Friday, June 26, 2015

A WWII Story I Recommend



I finished reading this Pulitzer Prize novel very early this morning. I could have finished it last night but chose to read the final 43 pages today. For some reason, I didn't want to come to the end of this compelling novel written by Anthony Doerr.

And so, at 6:15 a.m., I sat in the quiet house and read to the end of this bestseller. You can't help but wonder if the world needs one more WWII story but perhaps we do, perhaps we need to be reminded on a frequent basis what the world became during those years. When they are as beautifully written as this book, they are a satisfying read. Despite the abundance of WWII books, each one tackles one small part of that war, introduces us to a handful of the thousandas actually involved. I've always thought that historical fiction is a painless way to learn history, and this novel deals out a healthy portion of history to the reader as well as some scientific knowledge.

The story begins in 1934 and centers around two children. Marie-Laure is a blind child who lives in Paris with her father, a locksmith in the Paris Museum of Natural History. Werner is an orphan who is being raised with a younger sister in an orphanage in a coal mining town in Germany.  He is gifted in the science of radio transmission and all involved with it. As a result he is sent to a training school for Nazi youth and eventually becomes a soldier. Marie-Clare and her father flee Paris when the Germans come. The go to Saint-Malo, a town on the seacoast of Brittany, where they stay with Marie-Clare's great-uncle. Etienne has never recovered from his WWI experiences and remains housebound in his tall, six story house, due to his never-ending fears. 

The book moves back and forth effortlessly between the two children and what occurs in the lives of each. It is only late in the book that their paths cross and then for only one day. As we follow the lives of these two characters, we also get involved with a mystery of the whereabouts of a huge diamond named The Sea of Flames. 

There is much more but I prefer the reader find it on his/her own. The story is fascinating and gripping. Not being of scientific mind at all, I felt I learned some things about radio transmissions during this period of history as well as learning something of what it is like to live without sight as Marie-Clare did from early childhood on.

I also reveled in the beauty of the prose. Some paragraphs almost felt like a prose poem as they were written in language that spoke to my heart.

I found a veil of overwhelming sadness throughout the story. How can a war story be anything else, I asked myself. Even the ending pages which take place long after the war ends did not leave me with joy or hopefulness. But this is not a reason to pass over this novel. 

Read it for the fascinating story. Read it for the beautiful prose. Read it for a painless history lesson. 

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