First of all, let me say that this book has been lauded in many reviews as a great book and is still on the New York Times best-seller list. That said, I have to confess, that after two weeks and only getting through half of it, I gave up. That is not to say that I will not try to read this book again. I just might give it another chance later on. That is what I did when I did not like Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and see how that turned out.
This book is set in during World War II and involve two sixteen-year-olds, Marie-Laure, a blind French girl who lives with her father, who works at a Paris museum. He buys her on her birthday each year a book in braille and builds a puzzle box of the city of Paris, in scale, so she can find her way around it in her mind. The museum is home to many priceless art pieces, but one in particular is worth more that the others. It is the Sea of Flame, a cursed gem, that is said to provide immortality to its owner. When the Nazis invade France, the French box up the valuables and send them off to be hid. The gem, however, they make three copies of it and send two of the copies along with the real one, off to different points to try to keep it safe. Marie-Laure's father is one who is given a stone and they set off on a journey to find the man they are to give it to, who will get it out of the country. By the time they arrive, he has left his home. It is not far to her great-uncle's house in Saint-Malo. Her uncle, an eccentric who never got over World War I, has a housekeeper who works for the underground.
Soon, Marie-Laure's father is sent back to Paris, but he leaves the stone and a puzzle box of the streets of Saint-Malo with her in the care of her Uncle and the housekeeper. The book bounces back and forth between time periods and at one point, she is alone in the house, when a Nazi, whose purpose is to hunt down Europe's treasure's for Hitler, goes to the house to find the stone, with only Marie-Laure in the house that we know of, because she has heard from no one and is hiding with the stone.
The other teenager, is Werner, an orphaned German boy who, with his sister, Jutta, live with a sweet French woman and other children. Werner is a self-taught intelligent young man, who figures out how to fix radios. He learns math and mechanics from an old book, that is eventually taken from him by the Nazis, because the book was written by a Jew. He builds a radio and the children all spend their evenings listening to it. He can even get stations as far away as France, which how he and Jutta learn of what the Germans are doing to the French. Jutta is against this. But Werner does not know what to think. His bleak future consists of working in the mines when he turns sixteen, but chance intervenes. A Nazi official hears about his prowess and sends for him to fix his fancy radio, which he does, easily. This official gets Werner enrolled in a Nazi boy's school where he is taught how to be a soldier as well as spending special time with a professor who is trying to make a better radio for the war. His best friend, Fredrick, is a rich kid who, because of his position in society is sent to this school, even though he is as blind as a bat and cheats the eye exam to get in. He is a dreamer who loves birds and looks out for the unfortunate. He is smart, but weak, and his ideals get him into horrific trouble that Werner cannot seem to protect him from, though he feels as though he should. In one of the flash forwards, we see that Werner and two other soldiers are under a building with a broken radio in Saint-Malo, with the Americans coming and no way out. It is here that his life intersects with Marie-Laure somehow. I never got that far.
Don't let the fact that I didn't finish this book effect your idea of whether or not to read it. Like I said before, it has garnered incredible reviews and maybe I was just not in the mood to read a book like this now. If this overview of the book interests, by all means pick it up and give it a whirl. I myself just might one day finish it too.
I do not think that there can ever be enough books about anything and I say that knowing that some of them are going to be about Pilates.The more knowledge the better seems like a solid rule of thumb, even though I have watched enough science fiction films to accept that humanity’s unchecked pursuit of learning will end with robots taking over the world.-Sarah Vowell