All the Light We Cannot SeeFrom the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, a stunningly ambitious and beautiful novel about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.
Marie Laure lives with her father in Paris within walking distance of the Museum of Natural History where he works as the master of the locks (there are thousands of locks in the museum). When she is six, she goes blind, and her father builds her a model of their neighborhood, every house, every manhole, so she can memorize it with her fingers and navigate the real streets with her feet and cane. When the Germans occupy Paris, father and daughter flee to Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast, where Marie-Laure's agoraphobic great uncle lives in a tall, narrow house by the sea wall.
In another world in Germany, an orphan boy, Werner, grows up with his younger sister, Jutta, both enchanted by a crude radio Werner finds. He becomes a master at building and fixing radios, a talent that wins him a place at an elite and brutal military academy and, ultimately, makes him a highly specialized tracker of the Resistance. Werner travels through the heart of Hitler Youth to the far-flung outskirts of Russia, and finally into Saint-Malo, where his path converges with Marie-Laure.
Doerr's gorgeous combination of soaring imagination with observation is electric. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another. Ten years in the writing, All the Light We Cannot See is his most ambitious and dazzling work
Melanie rated it 5 of 5 stars
I always thought, or imagined, that there were these invisible lines trembling in our wake, outlining our trajectories through life, throbbing with electric energy. Lines that sometimes cross one other, or follow in parallel ellipses without ever touching, or meet up for one brief moment and then part. A universe of lines crisscrossing in the void.
Anthony Doerr's astonishing new novel "All The Light We Cannot See" follows the complex arcs of two such invisible lines through the lives of Werner Pfennig, an orphan boy in pre-World War II Germany and Marie-Laure Leblanc, a blind girl living in Paris with her father. Through riveting flash forwards and flash backs, the novel charters the course of their lives as they struggle to find out wether it is possible to really own your life when it is swallowed by the black holes of history. One is driven by a deep love of science while the other is inhabited by the power of books. In the midst of the rise of German fascism and the birth of the French Resistance, how does youth manage to stay true to its essence?
A war story, a coming-of-age story, a philosophical fable, this is a novel that constantly oscillates between the moral uncertainties of life and the chiselled precision of the natural world that surrounds us. Between the political morass of war and the stupendous beauty of organisms, the ocean, the human brain.
The language is so fantastically precise - Anthony Doerr does things with verbs that make entire paragraphs sing - that the visual component of this book is quite astounding.
In the end, what this novel illuminates is the miraculous impact that seminal events have on the rest of our lives, whether it be the magic of radio broadcasts on the mysteries of science or the extraordinary adventures of Jules Verne's "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea".
A deeply moving and enthralling work that echoes the power of early impressions on the building of a self, such as the philosopher Simon Critchley recently evoked so beautifully in a stunning essay published in The New York Times entitled "The Dangers of Certainty":
Diane S. rated it 5 of 5 stars
For me, this was a very special read. I feel like I have been on a long gut-wrenching journey, and in a way I have, traveling with two young children, one in Berlin and one in Paris and follow them as they grow-up. There are poignant moments, downright sad moments, moments that made me smile and moments that made me so very angry. Werner in Berlin is a curious child, a child with the talent for putting things together, like radios, he and his sister Jutta live in an orphanage. Marie-Laure, a blind girl and her father live in Paris, her father is the keeper of the keys for a prestigious museum. It is the radio that will connect these two lives long before they actually meet.
The descriptions are wonderful, very detailed as they are made for a blind girl, to enable her to envision the many things described. The novel travels, back and forth, times when they were young, times when they are a bit older and Marie-Laure finds herself and her father in St, Malo at the home her eccentric uncle, who is another amazing character Werner finds himself chosen for a school, and we travel along with him as we learn the many young men in the Nazi party were trained to be cold blooded killers.
How far would you go along with the prevailing threats and times, how would you react when confronted with an injustice? One young man pays heavily for his supposed weakness of character. How long can one pretend everything is fine, trying to keep eyes closed so one cannot see?
So it is radios, little built towns and houses, built by Marie-Laure's father so she can get around wherever she lives. It is keys, the French resistance, the United States Air Force bombing of St. Malo, of imprisonments and yes love. Moral questions and a great character study.
It even follows a few characters after the war in Berlin, which is where this quote comes in, "Does any goodness linger in this last derelict stronghold? A little." The story than picks ups twennty years later. I read this as slow as I could, I really did not want it to end.