Marie-Laure lives a simple but happy life, with her father, the locksmith of the Museum of Natural History. The museum, filled with snails, creatures and hidden gems, is where they spend most of their days. Between memorising routes and recognising scents, Marie-Laure, blind since the age of six, puzzles and plays with a miniature Paris model made by her father. She delicately navigates her way, using her fingers as eyes, around the ingenious replica. Over time she learns her way home, only to be forced out of Paris to the walled city by the sea – her new maze.
In Germany, Werner endlessly tinkers with radios in the attic of the orphanage. His talents and curiosity bring him to the attention of the Nazis, and he is sent to a school for the Hitler Youth. He questions the fate of his friend Frederick and spends his evenings working in the laboratory with the giant Volkheimer.
The deeply moving stories of Marie-Laure and Werner are unusual and emotionally plangent. Oscillating chapters, describing their crossed paths in the heart of the war, are deftly written, full of beautiful imagery, and endearing idiosyncrasies.