This strange text won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2015. Although its epic narrative focuses on war, the style and the content are unusual for a conflict-based tale. The difficulty for the reader is having the willingness to follow the author on his long flight away from realism.
It is possible for a plausible novel to contain a courageous blind girl. It is feasible for a story to include a Nazi who is not bad all the way through. Nevertheless, for a novelist to create a plot involving a meeting between a brave sightless girl and a less than sadistic Nazi is weird, especially when a rare diamond is added to the mix. If the reader can forget the ideological aspects of the fiction that helps in terms of critical appreciation.
Nonetheless, the imaginative boldness of Anthony Doerr is somewhat productive. This is because the author is committed to backing himself. Every twist of the novel may tend towards the absurd, but the writer has a poetic flourish:
“A light emerges, a light not kindled, Werner prays, by his own imagination: an amber beam wandering the dust. It shuttles across debris, illuminates a fallen hunk of wall, lights up a twisted piece of shelving.”