This is a beautiful book.It really is. I guess that should be surprised since it has got nothing but good reviews all over the place. It was all *THE* book of the holiday season, as my bookstore I worked at kept running out of it. Despite all of this, I really didn’t have much of an interest in reading it. It doesn’t fall into my normal fantasy/teen genres but it was the pick of my friend Katy’s book club so I read, I did. I’m glad I did because it’s beautiful.
It’s about Marie-Laure, a blind French girl and Werner, a German orphan. That first sounded a little cheesy at first, especially when since the narratives goes back in forth with their childhoods before World War Two and the lives during the war but it isn’t cheesy. Their stories are intertwined as we watch them grow and at time mirroring each others experiences. In between their stories is the Heart of Flames, a diamond that is housed in the Natural History Museum in France, where Marie-Laure works. The diamond has a curse, the owner will liver forever but their love ones will end in tragedy. As the Germans take over Paris, the museum intrusts the diamond with her father for safe keeping. Soon a German Major Sargent, who’s job is to find treasures the the Third Reich becomes obsessed with the Diamond and tries to track it down.
I’ll try my best to spoil but there may be some spoilers behind the cut.At first I thought I would be annoyed with the short chapters. The first chapter is only two paragraphs. That is not a chapter, that is two paragraphs. Thankfully not all the chapters were that way. The back and forth narratives between Marie-Laure and Werner make the story fly by. They are bright and inquisitive kids and very likable. Marie-Laure spends her time with her father at the Natural History Museum, learning about snails and mollusks when not reading. Werner builds and rebuilds radio and hopes to one day leaving his coal town and move and learn in Berlin. Over the years, as the Nazi party becomes into power their lives change. Werner is drafted in the Nazi Youth, though he doesn’t see it as a bad thing but as a way to escape his town for a better life. When the Nazi’s invade France and Paris Marie-Laure most flee Paris and everything she has known for Saint Malo, where their Uncle lives. Through all the ups and downs of their journey, they curiosity never leaves them. It reminded me that even though they have seen horrors I can only imagine. They are still only children.
I could done without the subplot of the diamond and Sargent Major Von Rumpel. At times, it pulled away from the story and slowed it down. Apparently, living during World War Two an all the hardships, wasn’t enough. We have to have a power driven Nazi too. His part is brief and it was a catalyst to our two herons meeting so I guess it served it’s purpose.
Of course, a story that takes place during World War Two you expect there to be death and this is no exception. However, I was unprepared for when that death came and honestly, I was a little angry too! I wanted everyone to live through it and have a happy ending. They all deserved it for what they been through but it would have been unrealistic. It was sad. I cried. A lot. Actually pretty much the last 70 pages of the novel, I cried though. So happy, I was at home when I finished because no one likes to sit next to the crying girl on the subway.
It was a beautiful book. I’m glad I read it. Thank you Katy for picking it.