Author: Anthony Doerr
Publisher: Scribner, May 2014
Format: Audiobook Narrated by Zach Appelman
Awards: The Pulitzer Prize and Finalist for National Book Award
Why I Read This Book:
I read so many glowing reviews about this book when it first came out that it went immediately on the list for one of my book clubs. I was also excited when I heard it won the Pulitzer Prize. I made myself wait until two weeks before the club meeting. It’s a good thing I waited because then this book was all I wanted to talk about.
What the Book Is About:
The setting is Germany and France before and during World War II. Marie-Laure is a young blind girl living with her father in Paris. When the Germans invade the country they flee to the countryside to stay with an uncle. Marie-Laure’s father made a model of the small village and had her memorize it so she could move around the village on her own. That was a good thing because the father was arrested and Marie-Laure was on her own.
Werner was a little older than Marie-Laure and his living conditions were different. He and his sister were nearly orphans and poor. But, Werner was very resourceful. He discovered an old radio, took it apart, fixed it and then went on to learn and make other forms of electronics. This would help him later when, at fourteen, he was sent to a Nazi youth academy run by very cruel men and then later when he was “drafted” into the army.
There is an interesting subplot involving a hidden, extremely valuable diamond, but the big question is this: Will these two young people ever meet?
What I Thought of the Book:
So many things have already been said about this book and I agree with them all. In particular, I loved the parallel story-telling style. Not many authors can pull this off as well as Anthony Doerr did. He even switched back and forth in time without it making a difference in the story.
The author created two young characters that I could quickly sympathize with. He gradually made readers see the genius inside both Werner and Marie-Laure. This alone made for a great book club discussion: Were they gifted children or did the time and circumstances in which they lived bring out the genius? No matter which side you come down on, you will love these two people.
Another topic for discussion was the various meanings of “light” that showed up throughout the story. Since “light we cannot see” is the author’s title I’m sure he intended us to look for that. Certainly with a blind child as one of the main characters I was aware of the light she couldn’t see. Then I began to notice that others in the story were blind as well although their eyes worked just fine. By the end of the story I felt Marie-Laure could see so much more than most of the sighted people around her.
All the Light We Cannot See is so beautifully written that it brought me to tears and made me shake my head in amazement. I read somewhere that it took the author ten years to write the book. It shows. It’s a wonderful work of art. It is certainly on my list of Best-Books-Read-In-2015. I highly recommend you read it.