This year's Pulitzer Prize was awarded to a novel that takes place in France and Germany during World War II. The principal characters are a young, blind French girl and a young German male orphan, whose expertise with radio transmitters plunges him into the midst of the War when he, too, is still a child. The respective stories of these two are told in short, parallel snippets of clean, beautiful prose, until they finally converge in the Brittany village of Saint Malo during the Normandy invasion. Interwoven with their stories is the mystery of "The Sea of Flames," a large, brilliant cut diamond with a historical curse on it, at first located in the Museum of Natural History in Paris, then disappearing into the miasma that follows the German invasion of France.
I must confess that I had trouble with this novel until I finally concluded that it is structured like a film script, albeit a very literary one. Doerr is an accomplished writer, but he defers to popular, modern taste with his "writing bytes" that satisfy what Scott Cantrell calls in opera the "attention deficit set", those readers who wish to focus on a given character and/or situation for a very short period of time. Listening to the book may be more rewarding than reading it, at least for old fashioned grammarians like me, who still like to see complete, complex sentences and abhor one-word fragments. The chronology of the book is also a bit confusing, moving back and forth from early to middle to late periods of the War, and not in any particular order.
All that being said, the book has much to admire in the integrity and courage of many who survived (and didn't) the unspeakable horrors of the War. It may be time now to move past the political turmoil of Vietnam to tell more of its human stories. It is sad but true that the "worst of times" brings out both the best and worst of humankind. I recommend this work with reservations--it's not story driven and there is much descriptive detail, but with a great sense of authenticity--Doerr knows his material inside out.
As to its recognition by the Pulitzer, all I can say is we've come a long way since Edith Wharton won the Pulitzer in 1920 for "Age of Innocence", even a longer way from Larry McMurtry's "Lonesome Dove" in 1985.