Wednesday, April 29, 2015


Marie-Laure LeBlanc and her father travel by foot from Paris to Saint-Malo, France, to escape Nazi aggression during WWII.  Marie-Laure, however, is blind and must familiarize herself with her new surroundings with the help of an intricate model of the town that her father builds for her.  Werner Pfennig is a German boy, living in an orphanage with his sister Jutta.  Facing a miserable future in the mines, Werner plies his skills as a radio technician into an appointment to a Nazi training school.  Conflicted about the horrific hazing of weaker boys that he witnesses in school, he still is grateful for the opportunity to avoid the same fate as his father’s—death in the mines.  Jutta serves as his conscience, trying to coax him back from the influences of evil, but he knows that the consequences will be dire if he tries to leave his military training.  The author flits forward and backward in time—sometimes years and sometimes just a few months—so that we know that Werner will be trapped in rubble, and Marie-Laure will be alone and frightened—both in Saint-Malo.  Of course, even without this advance knowledge, we can assume that these two characters will converge at some point, and the author entices us to follow them back and forth in time.  I am not fond of this technique of telling the reader what is going to happen and then telling us what has already happened, but this book in particular seems to treat the timeline in a rather haphazard way.  As a reader, I would prefer to be challenged in other ways than in an effort to keep track of where I am in the sequence of events.  Each time the author heads a chapter with a date, I should have made a written note, but what a pain in the you-know-what.  Overall, I liked the book.  Almost all of the characters are kind and courageous, especially the townspeople of Saint-Malo.  One heinous villain is dying of cancer, and we can only hope that he fades away before doing any more real damage.  The author does a stellar job of creating Marie-Laure’s visionless world for us, especially during her loneliest and most desperate hours.

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