Even if it feels like you may have read this story before, you haven’t. It’s boy meets girl, as in German boy meets French girl in WWII France, but it’s also about the nature of Nature itself.
The boy is a fixer, a natural engineer, and the reader follows his education in Nazi Germany, so you can see how the Reich trained a generation of soldiers for the war. Doerr comes close to describing the diabolical power of the Nazis so that you can almost see where this historical abomination came from.
The girl is a natural biologist originally at the Museum of Natural History in Paris and later on the coast city of St. Malo. They are bound together by a scientific, educational radio broadcast. Through all this, Doerr describes the action with sparing but sparkling language.
And that’s not even to mention the Nazi treasure hunter and the cursed jewel at the center of the plot.
This book is excellent, and almost a classic. I’d like to have a new angle on why the Germans became the Nazis, and it just doesn’t go quite deep enough. It’s a little too soft in places. But ultimately, this is one of the world’s fundamental stories, told impeccably and set in an old setting that seems new again in the hands of Anthony Doerr.