Sooo close to being 5 stars, but the ending got a little confusing/weird/(in my opinion) unnecessarily depressing. But this book was really unforgettable. It was so beautifully written; this is one of those books that you actually want to read slowly so you can just appreciate the writing. At 530 pages, it took me about a week to finish, because it is not a page-turner. It's a book you want to take your time with and really think about.
Honestly, I've never REALLY thought about what it would be like to live through something horrifying like World War II. Yeah, I learned about it plenty of times in my school years, but teachers and professors are more focused on names, dates, and places. Out of the many memoirs and historical fiction books I've read about WWII, nothing made me feel like I was really there like this book did. I felt the stress and the panic, the constant uncertainty, the hardships and the grief. Also, the character's relationships and personalities were all so complex, and this book did a wonderful job of really putting the reader in the character's shoes.
This book can't be classified as just a historical fiction -- a good portion of the plot follows the search for an allegedly cursed jewel that will keep you alive forever, but will bring death to those around you. I actually liked having a bit of a fantastical element to the story. While the jewel plot-line didn't necessarily feel super unrealistic, I did think it helped break up the heaviness of the plot a little bit, and I liked that it's something you won't find in many other historical fictions; it made the book even more unique.
Overall, 4.75 stars. This is the kind of book I'd recommend to everyone. There is so much to take from this book that I think anyone who read it would have some kind of appreciation for it in the end.