One of the best things about being a part of this lovely, diverse, magical book blogging world is the chance to find quality book recommendations from fellow book lovers. Those book lovers that have taken their love to the next level by preaching about it to the interwebs.
Rarely is there one book that is loved by all. I think that Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See is that book.
Recently my reading life and that of Alena @ Alena’s Life seem to have been meshing a lot. She’s been posting kick ass reviews, all of which make me want to run to the bookstore, find a quiet corner and throw myself into all the books she’s been loving.
All the Light We Cannot See was one of those books. I took it with me when I went out of town a couple of weekends ago. An hour later I realized I was completely and totally captivated by this wonderful book.
Werner Pfennig and his sister are mining orphans, living in a home with a bunch of other orphans in the years leading up to World War II. Werner finds a broken radio and manages to fix it, beginning a life-long fascination with all things scientific, but especially radios. Werner and his sister find a French radio station that plays these science based programs every night, followed by the most beautiful music they’ve ever heard. After he fixes the radio in the home of a Nazi, he is tested and found a place at a school for the German elite.
Marie-Laure LeBlanc lives with her father in an apartment in Paris. When she is six she loses her sight. Her father makes her a model of their neighbourhood so soon she’s able to find her way around by herself. She goes to work with her father at the Museum of Natural History where she spends her time with different department heads, learning whatever she can. Her father buys her Braille books and she falls in love with Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Then the war starts and she and her father need to leave Paris quickly. Her father has been entrusted with a very valuable artifact of the Museum’s. They wind up living in Saint-Malo with her great-uncle Etienne.
Marie-Laure strives to live normally in a world she cannot see; Werner tries to find his place in a world that seems to be crumbling around him. Both are hurtling towards each other.
I’d never heard of Anthony Doerr. Turns out he’s kind of a brilliant writer, the winner of multiple awards. This book took him 10 years to write. Like The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow, the care that he took writing this story shows. I think part of the readability of this 500+ page book is that each chapter is no more than 4 or 5 pages. “One more chapter” is oft repeated; such easily digestible portions make for swift reading.
I’m having a hard time doing justice to this book! I was so wrapped up in it, so moved by the characters and the time they found themselves in. They are all (mostly) trying to make the best decisions in this world that’s been turned upside down. Historical fiction can be heavy handed – you can feel like you’re being beat over the head with lingo or surroundings from a world gone by. Doerr handles this conundrum exquisitely. Although the situations were specific to the time (the Resistance movement, the Nazi school Werner attends, Nazi Berlin), there were moments that all of that fell away and it was just a human story.
This is one of those books that wraps up perfectly. If you like your books with very clear, satisfactory endings, this one is for you. Read it, fall in love like we have.