One of the books that I was able to finish on one of my flights from the weekend is All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Which, by the way I am so glad that I was able to finish. It feels like I’ve been carrying that book around for a month! I haven’t really… it just felt like it, you know? So, we were supposed to discuss this book for our book club last month (but we didn’t because everyone happened to be on Chapter 2 at the time) and I was determined to finish it before our next meeting! I succeeded- hooray! I was so excited to see how this story played out and had been looking forward to reading it for months. I love historical fiction and especially World War II stories, plus this author added a really interesting twist. Plus, it won the Pulitzer Prize this year.
Here’s what Goodreads has to say about the book:
Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When Marie-Laure is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris, and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.
In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.
So, I looked up the book on YouTube and found a video with the author describing his inspiration for the story and it was really interesting the way he described how we (human beings) take advantage of the magic of technology all around us. We can pick up a cell phone and talk to someone thousands of miles away and hear them as if they were standing right next to us. Part of this concept is interwoven into the story with the radios and whatnot. I, personally love that kind of stuff — it fascinates me. For instance in the story, Werner and his sister are listening to the radio and discover a station of scientific lessons talking about how the brain sits in total darkness but is able to translate light and colors. Nerdy, yeah maybe a little but who cares?
So Werner is a brilliant German kid who is swept away in the war because of his ability to fix radios and do intricate mathematical formulations. His story alternates with Marie-Laure, in France, who is blind and learns how to navigate her way around Paris and Saint-Malo from her father’s miniature model of the town. It is really very interesting, too to see the world from Marie-Laure’s perspective. Her descriptions are lovely and I love the way that she ‘sees’ colors! It’s worth reading just for those descriptions – really well written!
So, that being said… I loved the beginning. And I loved the ending. However, to be honest, I found it a bit slow in the middle. Perhaps part of the reason may be because for some reason I expected Marie-Laure and Werner to meet sooner in the story and for their lives to overlap and intertwine a little bit more. Spoiler: Werner and Marie-Laure don’t meet until closer to the end of the book; like around page 400 or so. So perhaps that could be why I found the middle a little slow; I was waiting for the story to take a different turn. Which, don’t get me wrong – I like to be surprised by a book, I like when a book keeps me guessing. This wasn’t really one of those, though – there was just a lot more that had to happen before they even met in the first place. I can’t really say a whole lot more without giving some things away.
So, all in all it was a really good story and I’m glad that I read it. Like I said, it had a great start and a great ending but I personally would have trimmed the middle – just a bit. Has anyone else read this one? What did you think?
3.5 out of 5 stars.