Sometimes I hate books. They make me cry.
This is the story of a blind French girl whose father is given custody of a cursed diamond by the museum where he workks, so that the diamond shall not fall into German hands during the war. It is also the story of Werner, an orphaned German boy who is a natural genius with radios. He is recruited to a Nazi training school so they can exploit his talents; at sixteen and small for his age he is sent to Russia with a unit dedicated to tracking down partisans through their radio broadcasts.
It starts at the point in the second world war when their destinies collide.
It is written in very small chunks. Not chapters. A page, perhaps a page and a half. The tiny jewels alternate from Marie-Laure, the blind girl, to Werner the orphan. There are a few of these alternate sections in Saint Malo, as the allies bomb it after D-day, then it swoops back in time so we find out about Marie-Laure and Werner growing up, then back to Saint Malo, then back in time, and slowly the times converge. This gives a feleing of the story marching towards some inexorable destiny. One quarter of the way through the book, the baddy is introduced. He is a bad Nazi hunting for the diamond and, by extension, he is hunting Marie-Laure. Again, there is a feeling of inevitability as he slowly closes in on his prey.
It is a story of how war destroys lives but how also it can provide a meaning to a life.
At the start the conscious effort of writing beautiful prose shows. The tiny sections enable this without seeming pompous or verbose. Towards the end the story takes over. I began to dread what was going to happen. I hoped beyond hope that it would end well but the diamond was cursed so how could it?
"Open your eyes ... and see what you can with them before they close forever."
A brilliant book. April 2016; 520 pages
- Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57