“It is easy to understand why Doerr’s book is regarded by many as an epic and a masterpiece.”

 

NO MAJOR SPOILERS

Never cheat the Truth. A review of All the light we cannot see, by Anthony Doerr.

Where to begin?

I read About Grace by Antony Doerr while I was stumbling through my first novel and the beauty of each sentence so affected me I almost gave up (writing). It was going to be too hard. Since then, whenever I’m faced with snow – real or imagined – some of his words return.

Obscurely though, since that first fling, I never sought him out. Then recently, I noticed my daughter was reading All the Light We Cannot See. It was like being reminded of an old school friend and doing a Facebook search – I downloaded this on the spot and began it that night.

All The Light We Cannot See is a story about two children caught up in the atrocities of World War 2. Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind. Her father builds her a perfect miniature of their neighbourhood. Over many months she memorises its every detail and after countless frustrating, furious and tearful attempts, she finally finds herself able to move around the city alone. When the Nazis invade Paris they leave their home for the relative safety of Saint-Malo where an elderly relative, cared for by a kindly matron lives in a six story house by the sea.

The other child, Werner, is an orphan, who along with his sister is raised in a home in a mining town in Germany. His future is down the mines: obscurity, an early death. By chance he finds a broken radio in a back alley near the orphanage and becomes obsessed by it. He spends all his free time rebuilding it from scraps of rubbish, until word gets around of his special talent and he gains a reputation, which eventually reaches the ears of someone important. He gains a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth – a way out of the mines, Werner says to himself, flattered by the attention and the cake he was offered when he easily fixes the army man’s radio. Only his sister gets a sense of foreboding and begs him to refuse the offer. But it was too late for that. In no time Werner was in the back of a truck tracking resistance radios, one by one, shutting his eyes to the killings, sweeping through occupied France to Saint-Malo, where we know Marie-Laure lives, alone now with her great uncle in the tall house by the sea, playing their part to save their beloved France…

I don’t remember if I was gripped immediately, all I remember is that those following weeks tore me apart. It’s not just that every sentence is a work of art all on its own, worthy of a second look, but that it’s so scary and inevitable and gripping and important and relevant, that to be honest I could barely bring myself to pick it up, because I knew that I was about to be really really scared and sick and ashamed. Anthony Doerr does that – he draws us in, so that to turn away would make us inhuman – would mean we didn’t care. It may be too late for all those children who were sucked into the killing machine of that war but if I couldn’t even stay with them during the pages of a novel would I turn away in Syria, Iraq, Palestine – all those other places that are to come – would I? Do I? Well of course I do – we all do – every day. So I read on; sometimes, to my shame, galloped on, to get it over with, to find out – I had to find out, though I knew there’d be no comfort in it – that’s another thing Doerr would never do – he’d never cheat the truth.

And as I write this, a few weeks later, I’m moved all over again… filled with the horror, the wonder, the unbearable love I felt for the two of them, the genius of Anthony Doerr, not a careless word as he courageously describes the sights and sounds of the very worst and best of what it means to be human, an assault on my senses which I shall never forget.

I will not wait so long to download the next one. And nor should you.

 

Reviewed by:

SAM MCCOLL

Added 13th July 2018

NO MAJOR SPOILERS

 

“Open you eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever”

The novel won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction[6] and the 2015 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction.

The Author Anthony Doerr took 10 years to complete this book – His inspiration came from one particular incident. Once he took a train from Princeton New Jersey to New York and his fellow passenger was talking to some one on the phone.

The telephone line got disconnected as the train entered the underground tunnel system. The passenger got so angry, he was yelling abuses that the author got frightened. That was when he started to think about all the electromagnetic waves and how it connected people now. As the telephone line was the inspiration the concept he used in the book was radio waves.

The timeline of the story is from 1934 to 2014.
When the book starts, The year was 1944 at Saint Malo, a seashore town in Paris that was under the control of Germans that was being bombed by American warplanes, the residents were French, occupied by Germans. The author as intricately woven this book with small chapters switching from 1944 to 1934. He gradually builds events from 1934 that would lead to the happening on 1944. That is how the story flows for the first 400 pages.

The two main characters in the book are Marie Laure Leblanc a blind French girl who was brought up by a widowed father who was a locksmith at Museum of Natural History Paris and Werner Pfennig who was an orphan that has a sister Jutta who was brought up in a Children’s home in a coal mining town of Zollvereine, Germany.

Marie Laure loses eye sight when she was six years old, his father builds her model of the town where they live and teaches her to be independent.. by touch, smell, counting steps and she learns braille. Her father gifts her 20,000 leagues under the sea by Jules Verne.. braille version..this book is also an important character in this story.

Werner growing up in Germany was an intelligent kid, he and his sister finds a broken radio and he takes it apart and builds it and hears broadcasts from some miles away from France, an older gentleman explaining science facts to kids. All the kids in that town get into coal mining when they grow up, because of his intelligence in electromagnets/science he gets into a elite Nazi school. He starts off with learning science at the school which slowly transitions into a training center for Hitler youth. where they taught racism, killing and humiliating people.

When Germany invades Paris, Mary Laure and her father flee from Paris to Saint Malo the sea shore town in Paris to the home of Etienne, Mary Laure’s great uncle’s home. Werner gets his assignment in military to track the source of radio communication sent by Nazi resistants. That was how he also comes to Saint Malo.

The story is about two people who communicated through the lights that cannot be seen. The girl that learns to broadcast and the boy who could listen into those broadcasts. The several paths they take and the people they meet before they meet each other. I even kind of sympathized with the German youth that had to join the Hitler youth.

My favorite character in the book was Fredrick, Werner’s friend in Hitler youth military school who refuses to do something that was wrong simply because everyone else was doing it. He took a stand. One needs to be very brave to take a stand with no care for the safety of his own self.

My favorite part of the book was when Madam Manek takes Marie- Laure to the ocean the first time. I have read many world war II books, I have seen many hardships gone through by real people that was so depressing. These small joys like going to a beach were just a reminder that people could find happiness even when they were going through a tough time. Simple happiness.

My least favorite part of the book, or I would have liked more is if Werner and Marie Laure have spent more time together, more than what was in the novel, when they meet it was already time to go separate ways., it was just too soon.

I highly recommend this book.

This book will be liked by the type of reader that would like to revisit history. People have a short term memory. A book like this will bring back memories for people who lived through World War II and people who have read about World War II. Happy Reading!

 

Reviewed by:

Kam VJ

Added 5th April 2016

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Kam VJ

NO MAJOR SPOILERS

I really love wartime novels but this one hadn’t really caught my eye, despite winning the Pulitzer Prize, but when it was opted for the book club I reluctantly ordered it and I’m certainly glad I did!

All the Light We Cannot See centres around the life of Marie-Laure LeBlanc and her father. Marie is blind, her father a locksmith at the Museum of Natural History. As we learn about Marie and her life the novel flips to Germany and a young boy, Werner and his obsession with radios and transmitters.

Roll forward a couple of years and we’re in World War II and everyone’s life starts to change. All the Light follows these changes, following different worlds until they must inevitable collide.

I really loved the choppy writing style, one minute you’re in Germany, the next St. Malo, France. In the turn of a page you are flipped around the characters and circumstances in snippets and little stories, eventually swirling around as they become closer and closer.

I know this was a favourite for many, but in the end I thought it was a bit clichéd, particularly the ending. That said, it offered some of the most beautiful and evocative writing I have come across in a very long time. The descriptions of St. Malo have it burned on my mind and I am left with a desperation to visit, and ever fear, danger and emotion in the book flows through to the reader.

A really lovely told tale, it’s just a shame for me that the story itself didn’t feel a little stronger.

 

Reviewed by:

Kath Cross

Added 15th January 2016

More Reviews By
Kath Cross

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