Also I was the featured blogger over at Jamie's blog Books and Beverages. And today on her blog there's a discussion going on about the Hobbit. So stop by if either of those things be ticklin your fancy!
Okay, down to business!
There was all kinds of buzz around the book world about this title. I was seeing it everywhere! But I was a little wary of the hype, and was a bit of a WWII book hiatus so I waited on it. Then I got myself on the uber long waiting list at the library (that's how it always is with this girl)
Marie Laure and her father live in Paris. (Do we ever find out what happened to Mom? I don't remember.) Her father is the locksmith at the (I think, in English) the National Museum of Natural History. She goes blind at around 6, but her father doesn't want her to be shut out from the world so he comes up with a pretty genius solution. He carves her a little model of their neighborhood, down to every street light and sewer cover so she knows where everything is and she has more confidence when they are out and about. Life is pretty good, but then the Nazis come to France and they must flee Paris, and her father is holding onto more than just a huge secret. (Dum Dum Duuuuuuuuuum). They flee to Marie's uncle's house. He is a recluse after watching his brother die in combat during World War I.
In Germany (it might as well be on a different planet for how different the situation is) Werner and Jutta are living in an orphanage. This brother and sister have a bare bones, but not cruel existence in the orphanage. Werner comes across an old busted radio and manages to coax back to life to the joy of the kids in the orphanage. Werner is naturally inquisitive and engineering inclined and soon other people in the neighborhood are bringing Werner their devices that need fixing. This eventually gets him noticed by some Nazi higher ups in the area, and he is accepted into a competitive, brutal military academy. He does well in his classes but hates the cruel brutality that pervades the school. He has seen other boys turn into ruthless, mindless thugs and doesn't want to be like them.
The war is long and brutal for both of these characters, though Marie Laure is not ever on the front lines. I was waiting impatiently throughout the book for their lives to intersect and when it finally happens I wasn't disappointed.
One of the things that I loved most about this book was the settings. Even if the descriptions of the settings weren't particularly vivid they were so easy to picture for me. This was especially the case at Uncle's house and at the beach nearby. I felt like I could feel the sea breeze on my face and smell the saltiness in the air. And I love that the house seemed like it would smell a little bit musty and "shut up" no matter how often Madame cleaned it.
I loved this book. I loved the short chapters. I loved how even the side characters were complex and interesting. I loved that basically all the questions I had got answered in the last few chapters (I mean, how rare and wonderful is that!?) This book gets a hearty 4 out of 5 stars for me.