This is a difficult book to describe. It presents a handful of very “small” lives which together paint a deeply disturbing profile of World War II and its legacy. In this way, it brilliantly uses a few people to artfully tell a very big story. Awarded four stars on Goodreads.
Central in the book are two characters — a motherless blind girl living in occupied France and a German teenage boy who is singled out by the Nazis for his exceptional abilities. Though these two characters don’t physically meet until three-quarters of the way through the book, we watch their lives unfold in parallel, showing the war from both the occupied and occupier points of view.
So then, why am I not assigning 5 stars? Purely because of the writing style. The stream-of-consciousness way in which Doerr describes what his characters are thinking became tiresome to me. Perhaps he intended by the style to give them all a sameness — but to me the style interfered in my enjoyment of the book.
I still recommend the book and urge you to finish it — particularly since the final chapters about the survivors, years after the war, are some of the most poignant.
Here’s more information about the author, Anthony Doerr.