All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Winner of the 2015 WINNER OF the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
A beautiful, stunningly ambitious novel about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II
‘An epic work about bravery and the power of attachment’ Rose Tremain, Observer, Books of the Year
‘An epic and a masterpiece’ Justin Cartwright, Observer
‘I’m not sure I will read a better novel this year … Enthrallingly told, beautifully written and so emotionally plangent that some passages bring tears’ Washington Post
'Far more than a conventional war story, It's a tightly focused epic … Doerr paints with a rich palette, using prose that resonates deeply and conveys the ephemera of daily existence along with high drama, sadness and hope … A bittersweet and moving novel that lingers in the mind' Daily Mail
‘This jewel of a story is put together like a vintage timepiece … Doerr’s writing and imagery are stunning. It’s been a while since a novel had me under its spell in this fashion.’ Abraham Verghese
‘A dazzling, epic work of fiction. Anthony Doerr writes beautifully about the mythic and the intimate, about snails on beaches and armies on the move, about fate and love and history and those breathless, unbearable moments when they all come crashing together.’ Jess Walter
From the back of the book:
‘Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.’
For Marie-Laure, blind since the age of six, the world is full of mazes. The miniature of a Paris neighbourhood, made by her father to teach her the way home. The microscopic layers within the invaluable diamond that her father guards in the Museum of Natural History. The walled city by the sea, where father and daughter take refuge when the Nazis invade Paris. And a future which draws her ever closer to Werner, a German orphan, destined to labour in the mines until a broken radio fills his life with possibility and brings him to the notice of the Hitler Youth.
In this magnificent, deeply moving novel, the stories of Marie-Laure and Werner illuminate the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.
My Review: 5/5 stars
I kept seeing this title come up in my book recommendations, but I shied away from reading it as the story sounded a little contrived. I finally gave in and chose it as the first book for book club this year and am very pleased that I did. The beautiful, descriptive language painted vivid scenes throughout the book and the well-developed characters quickly pulled me into the story. The short chapters and switching from one character to the other made what was a longer book feel like a quick read.
A question that came up during book club was why do we think the author choose to make one of the main characters blind and what did that achieve. My thought is that Marie Laure's inability to see afforded her some innocence and preserved this despite the atrocities that were happening around her as the war escalated. I also think that this allowed the author to describe places and things in a completely new way that added to the eloquence of the book. I remember a phrase where he compared fires burning to dried roses being crushed in your hand. Lastly, I believe it also paralleled nicely with Werner's experiences. Marie Laure's entire world existed through what she could hear and Werner's life in some ways began and was built around hearing through his radio.
In summary, I thought this was a moving, detailed book that explored the facets of human nature from the very best of what we can be to the worst. It showed us the goodness that we hope endures, despite horrors and oppression around us.