I had to read this for my book club otherwise I would not have finished it. The passive voice that begins each chapter, especially in the beginning, wI had to read this for my book club otherwise I would not have finished it. The passive voice that begins each chapter, especially in the beginning, was really annoying. It was probably meant to reference the inevitability of the rise of the third reich and the main characters' helplessness but mainly it just irritated the hell out of me.
All the characters were cardboard cutouts until page 150. Marie Laure is blind, likes to read and is interested in life sciences. Despite aging from 10 or 12 to 16, she does not change from page 20 to page 420. Werner is a mechanical genius, is really good at math and cares for his sister. He also does not change from page 20 to 420 despite aging from 10 to 16. Marie Laure's father is a typical Dickensian good guy. Presented with difficulties, he makes the moral choice over and over again. Werner is also faced with moral choices, in fact there is much more at stake with Werner's choices. The moral ambiguity is high. Werner chooses the path of least resistance again and again. There is no tension in his choices. He is as passive as the chapter beginnings.
So what happens around page 150? We finally get some interesting characters! Characters with depth that change and we can care about because there's more to them than a list of interests. Etienne has PTSD from WWI. He hasn't left his house in decades. We don't even see him for several days after his existence is brought to our attention. Then when he comes out, his love for Marie Laure and for imaginative adventures and his fear of the outside world shines off the page. We also meet Madame Manec and she's awesome. She cans the best peaches, she's talkative and friendly and warm. I won't give away how these characters develop, but they do. Meanwhile Werner and Marie Laure operate in their circumscribed paths and make me feel soo sleeeeppeee Yaaawwwnn
And now for spoilers of things that made no sense! (view spoiler)[So Marie Laure likes going into a grotto filled with slimy creatures and cold sea water that saturate her shoes? Maybe she is a dedicated naturalist but that doesn't explain the shoes! She doesn't have spare shoes. The leather is being ruined. Her only escape is to walk to the bakery in shoes that she is quickly destroying.
And then! to get away from creepy cancer guy, she locks her self in the grotto in the seawater and waits him out? Seriously? The town is occupied by Germans. He could simply post a soldier to wait for her or he could wait for her himself. And much more comfortably than she can wait. He can get a chair, get some food, a blanket, all kinds of things to make waiting easier for him than for her. We already know he is a patient man. But apparently locking herself in a grotto completely defeats cancer man.
The first person that Werner is directly responsible for killing is cancer man and this is treated as if he killed a cockroach. Werner is being haunted by a 5 year old girl he did not directly kill. How does this make sense? As odious as cancer man is, how worthy Marie Laure is, there's got to be some sort of impact on Werner but yet there's not.
Werner's death was so predictable. Of course he's going to die. But I didn't care. Bye Werner. I won't miss you because you're made out of cardboard and missing cardboard is kinda crazy.
The entire story is missing tension and drama. The author chooses a beautiful and unusual setting - Saint Malo. He chooses a time of upheaval and heartbreak and sacrifice and honor. And this book is so milquetoast. The jumping around in time was the only thing to bring some tension to the story and that was me rolling my eyes and silently telling the author to just write the fricking story already. The jumping around in time did nothing for the story except make it annoying when it was merely dragging along.
The tie between Marie Laure and Werner - the science recordings - became merely a banal coincidence when it should have been a moment of poignancy.
Finding the key in the little model house was a so-what moment when it should have been a moment of poignancy. A can of peaches would have been better - a tie back to a character I actually cared about. The key harkened back to Marie Laure's father, a flat character, and the grotto, a cold slimy place, and the museum, a place where very little happened.
The Sea of Fire was so uninteresting that I just now remembered to mention it.
The references to light weren't bad but they also felt pretentious to me. They had so little to do with the story that it seemed more like a lecture than anything poignant.
(hide spoiler)]I'm rarely interested in delving this deep into my book reviews so I guess bravo for that. Nevertheless. This is not an author I need to follow.
These are pretty easy breezy mysteries and usually a joy to read. My only complaint was Rachel Knight's insistence that she was going to bring the kilThese are pretty easy breezy mysteries and usually a joy to read. My only complaint was Rachel Knight's insistence that she was going to bring the killers to justice rather than allow them to "go out in a blaze of glory" because she wanted to deny them notoriety. Serial killers have notoriety because they are serial killers not because they were killed by policeman or because they're languishing in jail. Marcia Clark should definitely know this and her main character bears a striking resemblance to her in experience....more