The telephone line got disconnected as the train entered the underground tunnel system. The passenger got so angry, he was yelling abuses that the author got frightened. That was when he started to think about all the electromagnetic waves and how it connected people now. As the telephone line was the inspiration the concept he used in the book was radio waves.
The timeline of the story is from 1934 to 2014.
When the book starts, The year was 1944 at Saint Malo, a seashore town in Paris that was under the control of Germans that was being bombed by American warplanes, the residents were French, occupied by Germans. The author as intricately woven this book with small chapters switching from 1944 to 1934. He gradually builds events from 1934 that would lead to the happening on 1944. That is how the story flows for the first 400 pages.
The two main characters in the book are Marie Laure Leblanc a blind French girl who was brought up by a widowed father who was a locksmith at Museum of Natural History Paris and Werner Pfennig who was an orphan that has a sister Jutta who was brought up in a Children’s home in a coal mining town of Zollvereine, Germany.
Marie Laure loses eye sight when she was six years old, his father builds her model of the town where they live and teaches her to be independent.. by touch, smell, counting steps and she learns braille. Her father gifts her 20,000 leagues under the sea by Jules Verne.. braille version..this book is also an important character in this story.
Werner growing up in Germany was an intelligent kid, he and his sister finds a broken radio and he takes it apart and builds it and hears broadcasts from some miles away from France, an older gentleman explaining science facts to kids. All the kids in that town get into coal mining when they grow up, because of his intelligence in electromagnets/science he gets into a elite Nazi school. He starts off with learning science at the school which slowly transitions into a training center for Hitler youth. where they taught racism, killing and humiliating people.
When Germany invades Paris, Mary Laure and her father flee from Paris to Saint Malo the sea shore town in Paris to the home of Etienne, Mary Laure’s great uncle’s home. Werner gets his assignment in military to track the source of radio communication sent by Nazi resistants. That was how he also comes to Saint Malo.
The story is about two people who communicated through the lights that cannot be seen. The girl that learns to broadcast and the boy who could listen into those broadcasts. The several paths they take and the people they meet before they meet each other. I even kind of sympathized with the German youth that had to join the Hitler youth.
My favorite character in the book was Fredrick, Werner’s friend in Hitler youth military school who refuses to do something that was wrong simply because everyone else was doing it. He took a stand. One needs to be very brave to take a stand with no care for the safety of his own self.
My favorite part of the book was when Madam Manek takes Marie- Laure to the ocean the first time. I have read many world war II books, I have seen many hardships gone through by real people that was so depressing. These small joys like going to a beach were just a reminder that people could find happiness even when they were going through a tough time. Simple happiness.