An alternative to the epic, sweeping historical World War II sagas, this award-winning literary novel makes history much smaller and very personal - as seen through the perspective of a blind French girl and an orphaned German boy.
When you understand that no one is completely good and no one is completely bad - that life is much more nuanced and impacted by perspective - it's easier to see that WWII wasn't simply the Evil Nazis versus the Free World.
Werner's early aptitude for science and math are his salvation from working the coal mines that entombed his father. The conformity and cruelty of his instructors and schoolmates in the elite Nazi Wehrmacht school are tough for the boy to handle, yet he doesn't dare to rebel and destroy his chance for a future.
Marie-Laure goes blind as a young child, and her locksmith father finds fabulous ways to empower his daughter to independence. When they're forced to flee Paris upon invasion, the pair settle with her mentally fragile great-uncle in a towering house on the coast in Saint-Malo.
Many have been critical of the super-short chapters and constantly switching perspectives and timeframes, but I thought it allowed the book to move briskly without my attention flagging. It's not a book that's tied up in a neat bow at the end - some things remain a mystery - again, much like real life.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book and understand why it won both the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Also, it made me want to read Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea!