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This 2015 Pulitzer Prize and the 2015 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence novel was highly recommended to me, so despite the fact that it was another book about World War Two, I wanted to read it.  Although it is beautifully written, you have to know going in – it’s not a “beach read”.  It’s challenging at least it was for me… There is a great deal of technical information regarding electrical circuity and the study of marine biology. The vocabulary in this book is also challenging.  I think I have a fairly good vocabulary, but I was happy to be reading on my Kindle, because I had to look up more words than I care to admit.

 The story begins in 1944 in the beautiful beach front town of Saint-Malo in Brittany, France. “ A sightless sixteen-year-old girl named Marie-Laure LeBlanc” Is listening as Allied bombers attack the city to reclaim the city from the Germans. Meanwhile just streets away. a young German soldier, Werner Pfennig is told to “get to the cellar”.  This once beautiful hotel has become a fortress to make a last stand to hold the city.

 There are so many elements to this story that it would be very difficult to cover all of them in this review. (It took the author 10 years to write this 530 page book!) This book is mainly about two children – one French girl who survived in spite of unbelievable odds and one German boy who due to his remarkable understanding of circuitry is inducted into a Nazi military training school, training boys as young as nine years old to be part of the elite Wehrmacht. (The defensive force)  Ultimately, their paths cross when Werner’s unit is sent to Saint-Malo and he and Marie-Laure become unlikely friends in the final days of the occupation of France. In their short time together he tells her “You are very brave” and she replies, “It’s not bravery; I have no choice. I wake up and live my life.” This story covers so many more characters and events spanning a period of time from 1934 to 1974, which is what makes it a very special book. Happy reading!!




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