All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – 544 pages
Marie Laure lives with her father in Paris within walking distance of the Museum of Natural History where he works as the master of the locks (there are thousands of locks in the museum). When she is six, she goes blind, and her father builds her a model of their neighborhood, every house, every manhole, so she can memorize it with her fingers and navigate the real streets with her feet and cane. When the Germans occupy Paris, father and daughter flee to Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast, where Marie-Laure’s agoraphobic great uncle lives in a tall, narrow house by the sea wall. In another world in Germany, an orphan boy, Werner, grows up with his younger sister, Jutta, both enchanted by a crude radio Werner finds. He becomes a master at building and fixing radios, a talent that wins him a place at an elite and brutal military academy and, ultimately, makes him a highly specialized tracker of the Resistance. Werner travels through the heart of Hitler Youth to the far-flung outskirts of Russia, and finally into Saint-Malo, where his path converges with Marie-Laure.
My Review: 4.5 stars
This is a wonderful, insightful, emotional and plain ol’ good book. Anthony Doerr has successfully brought to life two young characters that are coming to age amidst WW2. Both are fragile, one physically and one wrought with guilt, however there’s no doubt you’ll be cheering them on from the start. This book has very short chapters, curt yet expressive sentences, and still, no word is wasted. It just works perfectly and it made me think the author was perhaps rationing his words to mirror the wartime experience. The relationship between father and daughter was delightful to read about and the underlying story of the “stone” in question kept a good mystery going as an alternate plotline. Light and the lack thereof are reflected throughout this book in many symbolic and obvious ways, which makes the title perfect.
Quotes I liked:
Don’t you want to be alive before you die?”
– “You know the greatest lesson history? It’s that history is whatever the victors say it is. That’s the lesson. Whoever wins, that’s who decides the history.”
– “Waiting, thinks von Rumple, is a kind of war. You simply tell yourself you must not lose.”