One of the hardest things for me to do is to walk into Barnes & Noble and walk out without buying anything. So I make all kinds of excuses to buy some thing. The excuses I made to buy this book:
- It won 2015 Pulitzer Prize and hence should be in my library…it won a literary award after all
- It was on sale – 30% off but 40% off for members and I am a member. Who doesn’t like a bargain?
- The book was on my reading list but lot of holds on the book in the library…who knows when I will get my hands on it?
So, I marched out of the store happy … and now that I read it I am so happy I bought the book. This is the first book of Anthony Doerr’s that I read and I enjoyed his writing style…the chapters were short and succinct, run in 3 parallel threads and they alternate between past and present. As a reader you, of course, know that the three threads will eventually converge but it was so nicely done. While reading this book I could not help but contrast it to the previous Pulitzer winner Gold Finch – where Donna Tartt prose was long and complicated – some of her sentences are as long as paragraphs and I had to read them several times to understand them – Doerr’s prose is simple and short – some of the sentences consist of just one word. I am not comparing the writers, nor am I saying that one book is better than the other but what stood out for me is the stark contrast between the two books that won Pulitzer prize in consecutive years.
The book is set in France and Germany during 1940s. It starts with the actual bombing of St.Malo, a historic walled city along the coast, and it revolves around Marie-Laure – a blind french girl – and Werner – an orphaned German boy who is a whiz at radio mechanics. The relationship between Marie-Laure and her father is extremely endearing … and how her father fosters the ability to be independent as she gradually goes blind is so heartwarming. How Werner’s love for radios steers his life and eventually crosses Marie-Laure’s path is the central plot of the book. Like I said, the reader will know that sooner or later the two will meet … and it makes the anticipation of the two paths converging all the more interesting. And for a second, you hold your breath – who would Werner betray? His country or his love for radio?
I personally would have liked the book to end 30 years before it did. And I personally did not like the chapters narrated by Marie-Laure’s father – I wanted to admire this character from far…did not want to get close to him for the fear of losing the mental image I had of this character.
A wonderful story narrated in hauntingly beautiful prose!