Marie-Laure and Marie-Laure’s father walk through Paris, trying to find a way out of the city before the Germans invade it. They are only two members of a huge procession of Parisians, all trying to escape. Marie-Laure stays close to her father, frantically wondering if they’ll be able to survive. As the morning turns into night, they leave Paris, and walk into the mountains. Marie-Laure’s father explains that his boss at the museum has given him the address for a friend in a faraway French town. He assures Marie-Laure that they’ll be sleeping in comfortable beds tomorrow night.
As the first part of the book draws to a close, it’s worth thinking about everything we’ve learned about the characters. Marie-Laure and her father have an undeniably close relationship, but we’re not sure how it’ll be affected by the war. For the time being, however, Marie-Laure’s father continues to reassure her that everything will be fine—an obvious lie that we can see through, even if Marie-Laure can’t (or refuses to).
That night, Marie-Laure and Marie-Laure’s father sleep outside in the woods. When Marie-Laure falls asleep, her father takes out a small object he’s taken from the museum: seemingly a diamond. The director of the museum has arranged for a “decoy” diamond to be placed in the museum, while the real diamond is taken to another location. There are also other decoy diamonds being taken to other French cities. Marie-Laure’s father wonders if he’s been trusted with the real diamond, or if his is only one of the decoys.
The plot thickens—in addition to his high-minded meditations on entropy, ways of seeing, and human connection, Doerr includes a plot based around a precious diamond—something more commonly found in an adventure novel than a Pulitzer Prize-winner. But this is the delight of the book—it’s complex, subtle, and long, but uses elements of the mystery and the thriller along the way.