In the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle (Natural History Museum for those of us who don’t speak parseltongue), behind no less than 13 locked doors, lies the most beautiful diamond in the world, known as the Sea of Flames. It is said that long ago, a prince found this precious blue diamond in a river, and miraculously survived an attack from a band of thieves who stabbed him in the heart- but did not find the stone that was clutched in his hand. It is rumored that the one who keeps the stone cannot be killed, but the longer it is kept, the worse your luck became. All around the prince, his loved ones began to die from a number of odd misfortunes, and the prince found that the stone was cursed. A Goddess came to the prince, now the sultan, and informed him that the curse could only be lifted when the diamond is thrown back into the sea. But the sultan was greedy, and kept the stone that was sought after by many men, until finally it was lost to history. 200 years later, the 133 carat diamond was found, and locked away in the museum. When the Nazi army invaded France, the stone was removed for safekeeping by the museum lock master, and given to his daughter. The most beautiful diamond in the world landed in the hands of a blind girl.
This book follows the parallel stories of the two most unlikely main characters one could possibly expect. The first is Marie Lour, a blind teenager living in Paris with her father, who works at the museum. When Marie Lour was young, her father built her a complete model of the city, down to every house, park bench, and baguette vendor with perfect detail, so that his daughter is able to navigate the city on her own.
“Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.”
In another world not so far away, but very different, Werner is an orphan teenager growing up in Nazi Germany, who joins the Hitler Youth movement to escape the life of a miner that killed his father. Werner has a kind heart in a hateful world, but he is able to use his gift for engineering radios to rise in the academy and ultimately avoid the most violent parts of the war.
The war begins, and Marie Lour and her father are forced to flee to the walled city of Saint-Malo, known as the brightest jewel on the coast of France. It is in this city that Marie Lour and her father find refuge with her uncle Etienne, who provides refuge for them. Soon after, her father is taken prisoner due his connection with the missing diamond, the Sea of Flames. But before he is captured, he is able to complete another model of the city for Marie Lour, which serves a dual purpose: to once again help her survive alone in the city, but also to house the missing diamond from the museum. Together, Marie Lour and Etienne send out crucial radio broadcasts from their hiding place in the attic to serve in the resistance, as the city of Saint-Malo burns around them.
It is these radio transmissions in particular that cause the paths of Marie Lour and Werner to finally converge. Werner arrives in the city of Saint-Malo with a small fleet in hopes of finding and putting a stop to Etienne’s radio messages for the resistance- but when he finds out where they are coming from, he must choose to either capture or protect the man who inspired his interest in radios in the first place. When Marie Lour and Werner finally meet, it is somehow like watching two complete strangers being reunited, which is artfully made possible in the pages of this book. For me, the most incredible part of this novel was its ability to create an abundance of imagery through a person that cannot even see in the first place, through smell, touch, and hearing alone. Marie Lour and Werner show that even amidst chaos people can still do good for one another. How the violence and greed of war can still be resisted by those pure of heart, when Marie Lour puts an end to the ancient curse (and metaphorically, much more) by returning the Sea of Flames back to the ocean.
“A real diamond is never perfect.”
The walled city of Saint-Malo
Thank you for reading what I have to say about books! I am still behind a few reviews but I will be whipping them out as fast as I can! My next review coming up is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, and then more to come.