As stretcher-bearers, the two men witness all too closely the nightmare of the battlefield and the trenches. Meanwhile, back home in Ireland, Con's sister and Matthias's lover, Kitty Hatchel, yearns for their safe return and reminds them of their carefree childhood, as well as their hopes for the future. But by the war's end, the future they had all dreamed of is gone, replaced by anger, violence, and open rebellion in Ireland.
And what little hope they have left may not be enough to sustain them, in this "a tour de force of writing, passionate, moving, and brilliant" Kevin Baker, author of The Big Crowd. Genre: Historical. Anthony Doerr's All The Light We Cannot See follows the parallel lives of two protagonists - Marie This is a carefully constructed book which is bound to captivate a large audience and become very popular, and be blessed with many warm reviews - it was chosen by Goodreads members as the best historical fiction of , and shortlisted for the National Book Award.
Their lives are drawn against the brewing conflict, which will soon engulf not only France and Germany, but most of the world - the second World War. Both Marie and Werner are sympathetic character for whom the reader can root for - the author has made sure of that. Marie-Laure goes literally blind in the first or second chapter, and spends the beginning of the book becoming used to her new condition mostly the help of her father, who designs elaborate puzzles for her to solve.
Werner grows up in an industrial town hit by the depression, amidst the rise of the brownshirts; his only real companion is his sister, Jutta, and his only solace the radio - which Werner knows how to operate and fix instinctively, and to which they both listen at night. The Nazis eventually come to power and invade France, forcing Marie-Laure and her father to flee to the northern coastal town of Saint-Malo, an ancient walled city which provides picturesque setting for much of the book.
In Germany, Werner's skill with the radio catches the eye of a Nazi official who sends him to the breeding ground for Nazi youth, where he will be trained to become a member of the military and eventually sent to the front. At the same time, a much older Nazi official searches all over France for an almost mythical diamond all over France, and is dedicated to finding it.
Doerr's chapters are short and readable, and often contain pleasant nuggets of prose which was obviously carefully thought-out. To maintain suspense, he switches both between perspectives and time periods: various parts of the book are set in different years, mostly non-chronologically, and are comprised of chapters alternating between different characters. The trouble with the book is that it's not very compelling, surprising, or illuminating.
With Doerr's outline for the story - three characters, three different viewpoints - we know that their stories will eventually collide, but when they finally do it happens in a quick, unsatisfying way. Doerr's characters lack moral complexity which would make them properly engaging - Marie Laure spends most of the book in hiding, which is understandable, but which also stops her from being forced to make important moral and ethical choices regarding her own survival.
Werner is even more troubling - while he is troubled by brutality he witnesses at the Nazi school, he seems resigned to it. Werner neither openly embraces Nazism, nor condemns it - he's indifferent to the whole experience and role he plays. It's as if Doerr never gave Werner the opportunity to grow up, choosing instead to preserve the young boy, fascinated by radio - which goes contrary to what boys and children in general experience in any war, which instantly strips them of their childhoods forever.
The subplot featuring Von Rumpel, the old Nazi who searches for the mystical diamond seems to be attached to the rest of the book for no reason except to move the plot forward - there's no complexity to his character at all, and develops exactly as expected. This is a book which looks as if it was designed to be read by younger readers - it's colorful setting, short chapters, switching points of narration will satisfy those with short attention spans, who require their story to be told quickly, engagingly, and not too demanding.
I think all swearwords used in the book can be counted on the fingers of one hand; its language is very mellow and mild on obscenities. For a novel set during World War 2, it is a surprisingly tame book - murder and death cannot be escaped, but is downplayed as much as possible. One horrible instance of violence - which could have very well changed a character's perception on things - occurs essentially off screen, lowering possible impact it could have had on said character.
This is World War 2, PG All The Light We Cannot See is a carefully crafted and constructed book, which for me remains its greatest flaw - I could never stop seeing the author's own hand behind the scenes, which made characters act out events in certain way, obviously planned well ahead. It's a fantasy world populated with unreal people, who engage in a fantasy war - and is bound to appeal to hundreds of readers, because this is what they want and appreciate. Popular for one season or two, but unlikely to be remembered in a decade or more.
Jun 28, Will Byrnes rated it it was amazing Shelves: books-of-the-year , fiction , literary-fiction , all-time-favorites-fiction , historical-fiction. It floats in a clear liquid inside the skull, never in the light. And yet the world it constructs in the mind is full of light. It brims with color and movement. So how, children, does the brain, which lives without a spark of light, build for us a world full of light? Marie Laure LeBlanc is a teen who had gone blind at age 6.
They bring with them a large and infamous diamond, to save it from the Nazis. Daniel had made a scale model of their neighborhood in Paris to help young Marie Laure learn her away around, and repeats the project in Saint Malo, which is eventually occupied by the German army.
See a Problem?
Werner and Jutta Pfennig are raised in a German orphanage after their father is killed in the local mine. Werner has a gift for electronics, and is sent to a special school where, despite the many horrors of the experience, his talent is nurtured. He develops technology for locating radio sources, and is rushed into the Wehrmacht to apply his skill in the war. Anthony Doerr There are three primary time streams here, as the Allies are assaulting the German-held town, , as we follow the progress of Werner and Marie Laure to their intersection, and the s.
We see the boy and the girl as children, and are presented with mirrored events in their young lives that will define in large measure the years to follow. Werner and Jutta are mesmerized by a French radio broadcast, a respite from the anti-Semitic propaganda the government is broadcasting. The Professor in the French broadcast offers lectures on science, and inspires Werner to dream of a life beyond the orphanage.
Open your eyes , concluded the man, and see what you can with them before they close forever, and then a piano comes on, playing a lonely song that sounds to Werner like a golden boat traveling a dark river, a progression of harmonies that transfigures Zollverein: the houses turned to mist, the mines filled in, the smokestacks fallen, an ancient sea spilling through the streets, and the air streaming with possibility. She spends a lot of time with a professor there, learning everything she can about shells, mollusks and snails.
Geffard teaches her the names of shells-- Lambis lambis, Cypraea moneta, Lophiotoma acuta --and lets her feel the spines and apertures and whorls of each in turn. He explains the branches of marine evolution and the sequences of the geologic periods; on her best days, she glimpses the limitless span of millennia behind her: millions of years, tens of millions of years. Both Werner and Marie Laure are enriched by teachers and books as they grow. No nuclear families here. The Pfennig children lost their remaining parent when father was killed in the mine.
The author, in a video on his site, talks about the three pieces of inspiration that provided the superstructure for the novel. While 80 feet below ground in a NYC subway, a fellow passenger was griping about the loss of cell service. Doerr appreciates the beautiful miracle that is modern communications. At the start of the book I wanted to try to capture the magic of hearing the voice of a stranger in a little device in your home because for the history of humanity, that was a strange thing.
I started with a boy trapped somewhere and a girl reading a story. A year later he was on a book tour in France and saw Saint Malo for the first time. That was where the boy would be trapped, listening to the radio. The third piece arrived when Doerr learned that when the Germans invaded, the French hid not only their artistic treasures but their important natural history and gemological holdings as well.
But there is a third stream as well, that of Sgt Major Reinhold von Rumpel, a gem appraiser drafted by the Reich to examine the jewels captured by the military and collect the best for a special collection. He becomes obsessed with finding the Sea of Flames, the near mythic diamond Daniel LeBlanc had hidden away. He is pretty much the prototypical evil Nazi, completely corrupt, greedy, cruel, as close to a stick-figure characterization as there is in the book. But his evil-doing provides the danger needed to move the story forward. There may not be words sufficient to exclaim just how magnificent an accomplishment this book is.
Amazing, spectacular, incredible, moving, engaging, emotional, gripping, celestial, soulful, and bloody fracking brilliant might give some indication. There is so much going on here. One can read it for the story alone and come away satisfied.
Science Fiction Light Paintings
But there is such amazing craft on display that the book rewards a closer reading. Some are simple. During a time of intense stress, she must live like the snails, moment to moment, centimeter to centimeter. In a moment of hopeful reflection, these tiny wet beings straining calcium from the water and spinning it into polished dreams on their backs—it is enough.
More than enough. You will find many more scattered about like you-know-what on a beach. I knew early on that I wanted her to be interested in shells. I'm standing here at the ocean right now. I've always been so interested in both the visual beauty of mollusks and the tactile feel of them. As a kid, I collected them all the time.
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That really imbued both "The Shell Collector" and Marie with, Why does the natural world bother to be so beautiful? For me, that's really embodied in seashells. I knew early on that I wanted her to find a path to pursue her interest in shells. I think that fits — I hope that fits — with visual impairment, using your fingers to identify them and admire them. Werner liked to crouch in his dormer and imagine radio waves like mile-long harp strings, bending and vibrating over Zollverein, flying through forests, through cities, through walls. At midnight he and Jutta prowl the ionosphere, searching for that lavish, penetrating voice.
When they find it, Werner feels as if he has been launched into a different existence, a secret place where great discoveries are possible, where an orphan from a coal town can solve some vital mystery hidden in the physical world. It permeates the tale as her reading echoes events and tensions in the real world of the story. Also avian imagery is a frequent, soulful presence. A particularly moving moment is when a damaged character is reminded of a long-lost friend or maybe a long-remembered fear? There are substantive issues addressed in this National Book Award finalist.
Moral choices must be made about how to respond when darkness seeks to extinguish the light. There are powerful instances in which different characters withdraw into their shells in response to evil, but others in which they rage against the night with their actions. Thoughtful characters question the morality of their actions, as dark-siders plunge into the moral abyss.
Sometimes the plunge is steep and immediate, but for others it is made clear that innocence can be corrupted, bit by bit. The major characters, and a few of the secondary ones, are very well drawn. You will most definitely care what happens to them. As for gripes, few and far between. There is a tendency at times to tell rather than show. Marie Laure may be too good. There are sure to be some who find this story too emotional. I am not among them. Just as Werner perceives or imagines he perceives an invisible world of radiowaves, All the Light We Cannot See enriches the reader with a spectrum of imagery, of meaning, of feeling.
You may need eyes to read the page, ears to hear if listening to an audio version, or sensitive, educated fingers to read a Braille volume please tell me this book has been published in Braille , but the waves with which Doerr has constructed his masterwork will permeate your reading experience. They may not be entirely apparent to your senses the first time you read this book. They are there. Whether you see, hear or touch them, or miss them entirely, they are there, and they will fill you. All the Light We Cannot See is a dazzling novel.
When you read it, you will see. View all 89 comments. Oct 18, Michael Finocchiaro rated it did not like it Shelves: pulitzer-fiction , fiction , americanst-c , novels. Honestly, wtf? I mean, we all know the blind person trope Daredevil, etc and the lovable Nazi trope Hiroshima Mon Amour and the mystical object searched for by evil Nazis trope Indiana Jones , so why throw all of these together?
The book was readable but no more so than a pulp fiction thriller. Honestly, I don't see this as being Pulitzer quality. The characters were ok, the narration interesting, but a masterpiece? The best US fiction in ? Perhaps not. And please don't accuse me of bei Honestly, wtf? And please don't accuse me of being too harsh - All Quiet on the Western Front, Winds of War, and The Sympathizer are all better war stories than this one.
Might as well give Bob Dylan a Nobel for Literature while you are at it Still not happy with this one. Sorry, but I just cannot appreciate it. Mar 18, Jenna rated it it was amazing Shelves: to-review , 5-stars-baby , netgalley , arc , favorites , historical-fiction. It has been awhile since I have found a book that I wanted to read slowly so that I could soak in every detail in hopes that the last page seems to never come. When reading the synopsis of this novel, I never imagined that I would feel so connected to a book where one of the main characters is blind and the other a brilliant young German orphan who was chosen to attend a brutal military academy under Hitler's power using his innate engineering skills.
This novel was so much more than the above st It has been awhile since I have found a book that I wanted to read slowly so that I could soak in every detail in hopes that the last page seems to never come. This novel was so much more than the above states. The idiosyncrasies of each individual character are so well defined and expressed in such ways that come across the page almost lyrically.
I was invited into the pages and could not only imagine the atmosphere, but all of my senses were collectively enticed from the very first page until the last. I was so amazed with the way that the author was able to heighten all my senses in a way that I felt like I knew what it was like to be blind. In most well-written books you get of a sense of what the characters look like and follow them throughout the book almost as if you are on a voyage, but with this novel, I could imagine what it was like to be in Marie-Laure's shoes.
The descriptives were so beautifully intricate that I could imagine the atmosphere through touch and sound. It was amazing, really. There were so many different aspects of the book that are lived out in separate moments and in different countries that find a way to unite in the end. What impressed me most was that I could have never predicted the outcome.
It was as though all cliches were off the table and real life was set in motion. Life outside of books can be very messy and the author stayed true to life but in a magical and symbolic way. I have said in other reviews that just when I think that I have read my last book centered around the Second World War, another seems to pop up. I should emphasize that this book created an image of war in a way that I have never imagined before.
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I truly got a sense of what it must have been like for children who lived a happy life and then suddenly were on curfew and barely had food to eat. It also showed the side of young children who are basically brainwashed by Nazi leaders and made into animals who seem to make choices that they normally wouldn't in order to survive. And by survive, I mean dodging severe abuse by their own colleagues.
This book may haunt me for some time. I can't express enough how beautifully written the pages are. I highly recommend this read as it is my favorite so far for I received this book through NetGalley View all 49 comments. Mar 07, Jim Fonseca rated it it was amazing Shelves: favorite-books. This is a great book. Its very high ratings 4. A young blind girl relies on her father for everything and she is his world as well. He spends all his time making her a wooden model This is a great book.
He spends all his time making her a wooden model of the city so she can get around alone with her white cane. In neighboring Germany, a young boy, who lives with his sister in an orphanage, starts fooling with crystal radios and becomes a crackerjack radio repairman enthralled by these voices coming over the air. Her blindness and his fascination with these invisible waves give us a main theme of the book.
You can show it to me. Malo; a budding one-day romance between the French girl and the German boy. As if a great river of machinery is streaming slowly, irrevocably, toward her. They always seem to be going somewhere and never doubt that it is the right place to be going. Something his own country has lacked. I wish I had read it years ago. Photo of Paris sunset from nyhabitat. Malo from europeupclose. View all 90 comments. Jun 11, Caz littlebookowl rated it really liked it. This book was so beautiful and haunting. I fell in love with so many of the characters, and loved how their lives were weaved together.
Knowing the time period this was set in, I knew the ending would hurt. And it did, though I didn't shed as many tears as I expected. The writing was incredible, the descriptions so vivid. It did a superb job of showing the reader how the characters felt through their actions, rather than telling. Whilst the short chapters on average 1. I really enjoyed being able to savour it and get to know the characters, however there were some points where it felt a little too dense and slow.
View all 5 comments. Apr 19, Miranda Reads rated it it was ok Shelves: audiobook , finer-books-club-reading-chall. Why are all prize winning books so depressing? Do the Pulitzer Prize judges immediately disqualify fun books? Seriously, I don't think I've seen a happy one yet. We follow two storylines - one set in Germany focused on Werner Pfennig , an orphan, who's always dreamed of an education.
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He finally gets an opportunity, through the brutal tutelage of the Nazis. And we follow Marie-Laure , a french blind girl much beloved by her father, a locksmith of the Muse Why are all prize winning books so depressing? And we follow Marie-Laure , a french blind girl much beloved by her father, a locksmith of the Museum of Natural History. She and her father flee occupied France to live with a reclusive uncle. But it is not bravery; I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don't you do the same? Unbeknownst to Marie-Laure, her father carries a priceless gem or one of the three replicas that is rumored to grant everlasting life to its keeper but nothing but misery to all others around him.
Meanwhile Werner spends all his time in the Nazi army, chasing down enemy radio signals. Just like the ones that Marie-Laure and her uncle send out to help the allies. Their paths draw ever closer You know the greatest lesson of history? This one was an interesting story but not an engaging one.
I couldn't connect to the characters and the plot seemed to stretch on forever without making much progress. We spend so much time building to the ending for that moment to occur I feel like I wasted my time. Also, it really bothers me when such tragedies are capitalized and twisted to fit some glorifying narrative.
It feels just a bit odd to turn truly horrifying events into something beautiful and poetical. I feel like there's a real danger to viewing events through rose tinted glasses. Audiobook Comments Read by Zach Appelman - it was alright. The voice was so monotone that listening became rather difficult at times. View all 91 comments. Jan 11, Dem rated it liked it Recommends it for: book club read. Shelves: ww2. I enjoyed this novel by Anthony Doerr and yet when I was nearing the end I couldn't help feel a a sense of relief to have finished the book.
I enjoy historical fiction and really looked forward to this novel by Anthony Doerr as it was set in a time frame that that really interests me. Because I read quite a lot of novels set around World War Two I love the fact that the author took a a slightly different path with his storytelling and that is what drew me to this novel. I loved the characters of M I enjoyed this novel by Anthony Doerr and yet when I was nearing the end I couldn't help feel a a sense of relief to have finished the book. There is a slight magical element to the stroy which I am not a major fan of at the best of times but it works well in this book.
I did however struggle with the structure and pace of the novel and this is the reason for me liking this novel and not loving it. I found the toing and froing between time frames a bit tedious and the chapters too short. Normally this isn't a problem for me but however in this book it took from my overall enjoyment of the story.
It wasn't that I couldn't follow the plot but more that it became a chore for me and just when I was gelling with one time frame and character I was dragged kicking and screaming to another time frame and character and wished at times the author would just allow the story to flow and not chop and change. To sum up an interesting and worthwhile read and a book that will be enjoyed by historical fiction lovers and book clubs over the summer. View all 55 comments. Dec 11, Angela M rated it it was amazing.
What I loved most about this book was all the light that I did see. There is so much here that captivated me - from the beautiful writing to the strong, caring characters to the loving relationships and the way people touched each other's lives during the trying times of WW II. Parallel stories are told in alternating chapters of Marie Laure, a teenage French girl who has been blind since the age of six and Werner, an intelligent, perceptive and sensitive German orphan who learns to fix radios an What I loved most about this book was all the light that I did see.
Parallel stories are told in alternating chapters of Marie Laure, a teenage French girl who has been blind since the age of six and Werner, an intelligent, perceptive and sensitive German orphan who learns to fix radios and becomes noticed by the German army. Each of their stories will move you in their own right, but especially when their paths cross. Through the lovely descriptive language we know that Marie Laure sees what she cannot see because he father lovingly carves a model of the neighborhood so she can tell where buildings and streets are and she knows by the number of steps and which way to turn.
This loving, nurturing and often times touching relationship between Marie Laure and her fathers will melt your heart. He teaches her Braille, buys her books in Braille and gives her lovely little surprise boxes opened by solving a puzzle or trick opening to discover the hidden gift. Werner and his orphan sister Jutta have a special relationship , as well, and the letters they exchange are at once heartbreaking an heartwarming, even though it appears that Jutta has a hard time forgiving Werner for what he does to the radio.
Doerr has created and developed characters that you care about as soon as you meet them. The role that these people, including Marie Laure, play in the resistance is so courageous. Some bad things and some very sad things happened but after all this was war. But I loved the connections of people in the end and the ultimately uplifting feeling of hope - another light in this book.
I highly recommend it. View all 45 comments. So, I know I should be oohing and ahhing over this book, but it just wasn't for me.
This is definitely one of those "it's not you, it's me" moments. I can see why many people have given such glowing reviews, but I found it to be unbearably dull and slow-moving. I never felt a strong connection with either of the main characters or the story itself. I'm just glad that it ended. 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 bli For me, this was a very special read. 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. 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. I read this as slow as I could, I really did not want it to end. ARC from publisher View all 83 comments. I think that my opinion of this book does not match the general opinion. I was pretty bored throughout and my mind kept wandering. I kept waiting for a big payoff, plot twist, that would bring my attention crashing back. I thought there might be some grand resolution beyond the symbolism and poetry of the writing, and there really didn't seem to be.
Maybe I missed it while my mind was wandering. Two other things - I have been encountering these a lot lately: - WWII is now definitely entrenched as a I think that my opinion of this book does not match the general opinion. Over the past year I have accidentally stumbled onto books that are being read by a wide audience, I know nothing about them, and when I start reading them they start with a teenage girl dealing with the perils of WWII. I have also read several knowing this was the case going in.
This is not a bad thing, just an observation that there are a lot out there now! I never really felt like they added a whole lot to this particular book. Maybe a couple of "Oh, that's how we got here" moments, but that was it. I have seen a lot of 5 star review for this book, so maybe I am in the minority. I would not be the one to recommend this one, but you probably shouldn't listen to me as you might miss out on a 5 star book for you! Side note: I listened to this book and I thought the narrator was great, but, as mentioned above, it did not keep my attention and that has not happened to me in a very long time with audio.
View all 74 comments. May 26, jessica rated it really liked it. View all 10 comments. Jun 02, Raeleen Lemay rated it really liked it Shelves: own. When I started this book, I noticed some similarities to The Book Thief , and although they quickly fell to the wayside, I couldn't help but compare this book to The Book Thief the entire time I was reading it. And since The Book Thief is my favorite book of all time, it kind of took away some of the enjoyment for me while reading this.
The plot and the characters ended up being quite different which was great , but I just found that the pacing was a bit off for me. It was a bit too slow for m oK. It was a bit too slow for my liking, and that's the only reason I docked a star. It was literally perfect in every other way. View all 20 comments. Jun 01, Marialyce rated it it was ok. This is a case of where I am going to hate myself for again feeling a book that has received a multitude of five star ratings feel short for me. It was not that I disliked it, but I found it to be jumpy and often disjointed.
I am not a fan of the current trend of devoting one chapter to one character and the next to another and flipping back and forth. To my way of reading and thinking, it doesn't allow the reader me to gather depth of a character. It makes me overly anxious to sally forth try This is a case of where I am going to hate myself for again feeling a book that has received a multitude of five star ratings feel short for me. It makes me overly anxious to sally forth trying to connect and find the thread. My interest wans and the moment I seem to be getting there with a character I am pulled away to the next chapter.
While the characters were different, I felt by the time I reached the final page I really did not know them well at all. They were like phantoms and perhaps that is exactly the way the author wished them to be. Midway throughout this overly long novel, I felt that I had turned a corner and had finally grasped onto the people of the novel, but seemed again to lose their continuity and their relevance as the book continued to what I felt was a murky conclusion.
Sorry to say, I feel like I did when I finished The Book Thief , a bit of a traitor to a book that so many loved, but from which I received not much satisfaction. Apr 15, Steve rated it it was amazing. To those who like big-boughed characters i. Set in the years leading up to and during WWII, these two were influenced by the great conflict, but were not defined by it.
A whole host of related characters were also amply drawn. This included a wooden model of their neighborhood so she could learn her way around. Her extended network in Paris and later Saint-Malo played an important role, too, including a reclusive great-uncle who used to write and produce a science program for radio. Werner rigged up a receiver that he and his younger sister loved listening to when they were kids.
Their favorite show was one broadcast from France discussing the wonders of the physical world. Werner is clever and technologically savvy. Doerr must have become so, too, since he presented it all in such an appreciative way. Werner was recruited into an elite school that unfortunately had only one agenda for all the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math that they taught.
The book does a creditable job describing the climate in both Germany and France. Doerr clearly did his homework. The two young people do meet, but the how, when and where of it is up to the book to divulge. To those who like pretty sentences: I thought this one struck a good balance. It featured occasional flourishes, but not so much that it ever got in the way of the plot.
All the Light We Cannot See
The branches of trees, the filigree of roots, the matrix of crystals, the streets her father recreated in his models None more complicated than the human brain, Etienne would say, what may be the most complex object in existence; one wet kilogram within which spin universes.
Descriptive passages are rarely long or tedious. It switches perspectives often, but never to the point of distraction. And any jumps in time feel natural, part of the flow, not confusing. But then who of you would fit in this category anyway? Feb 22, Charlotte May rated it it was amazing Shelves: war , magical-realism , page-plus , historical-fiction , favourites , tear-jerker.
Haunting, harrowing, heartbreaking. This book was an incredible depiction of the Second World War, told from the point of view of two characters in very different circumstances. Switching between narratives following Marie-Laure, a young blind girl living in France with her father, a museum caretaker.
Forced to flee Paris, Marie Laure's father carries the real one of 4 copies made of the legendary 'sea of flames' a jewel said to bring bad luck and destruction on whoever holds it. The second narr Haunting, harrowing, heartbreaking. The second narrative is Werner, a young German boy recruited into the Hitler youth and used for his exceptional intelligence with wireless and technology.
Their stories run parallel, the prose is wonderful and enchanting giving real insight into the terror of war and the effects it had on the lives of such different people. Without using characters who were soldiers which gave this novel a different edge. The two characters eventually meet briefly and beautifully near the end, and to follow their stories and the stories of those around them was both heart warming and heart wrenching. Absolutely incredible. View all 12 comments. Anyone looking for a good cry or an ugly cry, or a proud cry, or, well, any kind of cry, really , this is the book for you!
Watching him go from being such a sweet and innocent child to being swept up in a movement he does not agree with but feels powerless to stop is immensely powerful. Marie Laure's story in Saint-Malo stagnates for a while before it picks up again. Also, the constant technical descriptions of Werner's repairing and working the radio equipment made my eyes glaze over at times. It's not a perfect novel and maybe could have been shortened somewhat, but the gripping and emotive segments far outweigh the dull ones.
The events of this book will stay with me for years! View all 29 comments. Dec 23, Matt rated it really liked it Shelves: literary-fiction , contemporary-fiction , historical-fiction. First, I buy it, right away. Like the instant I finish reading the review in the New York Times. Second, I put the book on my shelf, as soon as I receive it.
Finally, I read it, two or three or four years later, when I finally get around to it. This routi "So how, children, does the brain, which lives without a spark of light, build for us a world full of light? This routine is a function of several things, chiefly a love of books, a deliberate reading speed, and also financial impulsivity.
At one point my wife found this charming. As a history lover, and a lover of historical fiction, the setting and the characters were irresistible. World War II. A young German radioman hunting partisans. The walled city of Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast. And all this with a literary pedigree to boot. When it got to my house, it came out of the box and straight to the top of my reading list. Full disclosure: It was also chosen by my Book Club. I might have had something to do with the choice. This is an excellent book.
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It is intricately structured. It is beautifully written. It has some memorable characters. There are even some equations, just like in a Harvard bar. Yes, there is some self-conscious and rather heavy-handed literary pretensions — this is a book with leitmotifs , I tell you, honest to god leitmotifs — but in the end Doerr is so self assured in the story he is telling, and the book itself is so damned readable, that I am willing to forgive the parts that felt churned from a creative writing workshop.
To begin, the novel is told in tiny chapters. Sometimes a couple pages. Sometimes a paragraph. Thus, despite being pages, this is a rather quick read. The short chapters give Doerr the opportunity to present the perfect details at the perfect moments. Much of the power of this book comes from this clever delivery, these mini-scenes that burst and fade like fireworks. The novel begins on August 7, , with Allied bombers dropping leaflets on Saint-Malo, warning people to leave.
After a few chapters, Doerr jumps back in time to , with alternating Marie-Laure and Werner chapters. The flashback timeline progresses chronologically, often with rather large jumps in time. Every so often, however, the reader is thrust back to and the onrushing German-Allied cataclysm. We live in an era of sophisticated storytelling, when even popular sitcoms e. Just to be sure, however, he always date-stamps his time shifts. This is what I mean by readable. All the Light We Cannot See is literary fiction more than historical fiction, and like I said above, there are equations, and long discussions about radio waves, but none of this is off-putting.
This is a book that wants to be read. The arcs of our two major protagonists are both engrossing in their own way. Her father constructs a highly detailed physical model of the streets of Paris — streets, houses, even sewers — so that his daughter can learn the layout with her hands, and be able to navigate the real streets herself.
On her birthdays, he makes a puzzle for her to solve, and uses his limited funds to purchase her Braille copies of great, adventurous works, such as Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. The relationship between father and daughter, told delicately through these actions rather than by grand exchanges of dialogue or lengthy internal monologues , is one of the most moving parts of a moving novel.
Usually, I dislike magical-realism, but here, I was first charmed by the fable, and later surprised how Doerr weaves it into the rest of his story. He lives in an orphanage with his sister in a coal-mining town. He has an aptitude for tinkering, and is able to fix an old radio. Eventually, he is chosen for a Hitler Youth boot camp, and his arc picks up. Eventually, Werner is sent East, to triangulate partisan radio signals and hunt them down. Partway through this epic, Doerr introduces a Nazi by the name of von Rumpel.
He is the wild card, the one thing that can disrupt the destiny of both Werner and Marie-Laure. Doerr does an excellent job with this guy. He is a man on a mission, to find a very specific thing more than a few shades of Hans Landa from Inglourious Basterds and the weapon he develops to accomplish his task is patience. I was never much good at athletics or mathematics, but even as a boy, I possessed unnatural patience. I would wait with my mother while she got her hair styled. I would sit in the chair and wait for hours, no magazine, no toys, not even swinging my legs back and forth.
All the mothers were very impressed. The image of a kid sitting still for his mother. I love it. This is a gorgeously written book. I mean, it is written. Strewn throughout random paragraphs will be these wonderfully polished sentences that just leap out at you. Take, for instance, the first time Marie-Laure goes to the sea: She walks.
Now there are cold round pebbles beneath her feet. Now crackling weeds. Now something smoother: wet, unwrinkled sand. She bends and spreads her fingers. Cold, sumptuous silk onto which the sea has laid offerings: pebbles, shells, barnacles. Tiny sips of wrack. Her fingers dig and reach; the drops of rain touch the back of her neck, the backs of her hands. The sand pulls the heat from her fingertips, from the soles of her feet. A months-old knot inside Marie-Laure begins to loosen.
She moves along the tide line, almost crawling at first, and imagines the beach stretching off in either direction, ringing the promontory, embracing the outer islands, the whole filigreed tracery of the Breton coastline with its wild capes and crumbling batteries and vine-choked ruins. She imagines the walled city behind her, its soaring ramparts, its puzzle of streets.
This is the point in which I have to state this is not a perfect novel. Rather, it did not hit me in that precise spot. I took some time to think about this, because I know what my heart wants, and what it usually wants is a book just like this. Part of my discontent is with the ending. Perhaps there is no satisfactory way to conclude a novel like this, with its wildly different characters converging at once, after hundreds of pages of buildup. But I found the ending very dissatisfying.