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I had not read anything by Anthony Doerr prior to this book. I simply picked it up because it looked interesting. I was very impressed. Almost every two pages switches from one main character, the blind French girl, to the other main character, Werner, the young German boy. The story does not run chronologically either. In the beginning it is 1944; later it is 1942 then back to 1944. This writer manages to make all of this work without ever leaving the reader confused.
The characters are so well developed the reader feels close to them and likes most of them. The book is poetic and yet realistic.
The blind girl's father may be carrying a fantastic diamond from the Paris Museum of Natural History. He and the girl escape to St. Malo, where the boy of 16 is sent as a soldier in the German army. St. Malo is the last bastion of the German defense, and they are under attack.
The boy manages to save the girl from a German searching for the diamond after the arrest of her uncle and father. The ending is not a romantic ending. It is realistic, complex, and most interesting reading.