Sunday, January 25, 2015

All the Light We Cannot See

by Anthony Doerr
January 1-18, 2015

First book of 2015! And boy, was it a great one. With at least five nods as one of the best books of 2014, the only thing that kept me from reading it sooner was simply a slow/off reading year. I'm looking to get my groove back this year.

I read that it took Doerr ten years to write this book. His effort paid off. He is a genius with prose and the imagery made me feel as though I was experiencing the horrors of war with Marie-Laure and Werner. With short chapters and time-hopping of about 10 years in these kid's youths, I was able to read at a pace that I hadn't in quite some time.

Marie-Laure is a blind girl living in Paris with her locksmith father at the time of the German invasion in WWII. Werner is a German orphan with a knack for fixing radios, which ultimately lands him in a school for Hitler youth. Of course their lives intertwine, but for me it was a surprising and delightful meeting. While there were so many moments in the story that were heartbreaking and gut-wrenching, there was an equal amount of poignancy as well as an unexpected history lesson. Marie and her father were forced to flee to her great-uncle's home in Saint-Malo, and I admit that I'd never heard of this town on the Brittany coast of France. I was so fascinated by what I'd read in the book that I did a little more research when I finished. I was struck by a line near the end of the novel (by this point, present day) that really does ring true:
"Every hour, she thinks, someone for whom the war was memory falls out of the world."
I just makes me think that I should have asked more questions of my grandparents when they were still alive. Both my grandfathers fought in WWII.

The "light we cannot see" became a character itself in radio waves, but it also symbolized many moments in the lives of the protagonists. The fate of the "Sea of Flames," a rare gem entrusted to Marie's father for safe keeping, is a perfect discussion point because, do we really know what happened to it?

I savored every word of this, in my opinion, masterpiece. I can only hope to be as luckily with the rest of my book choices for this year.

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