Margin Notes: All the Light We Cannot See
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
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.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
SPOILERS: I really enjoyed the beauty of this book. The story follows two children who's lives intertwine: Marie-Laure a Parisian blind girl who lives with her father, a museum locksmith; and Werner, a German orphan who is very smart with an innate sense of engineering, the drive to escape his coal town existence, and a sister, Jutta, who is his moral compass. The plot moves forward and back through time fluidly, which I actually really enjoyed. Once I understood that was how it would work, I was confident that any little plot quirk would get ironed out and didn't dwell on them, instead I reveled in how the author chose to share details with us. The lyricism of the book, the beauty of the prose, the character development were all excellent. The story takes you on a ride. (spoilers from here): The descriptions were all so visceral, as though Marie-Laure's enhanced senses were our own, from her description of the resistance, the snails, the feeling of the paper announcing a bombing (but without braille so she doesn't know), the sound of boots on the floor below as ML hides in the attic, the taste of canned peaches, all had me rereading for the love of the words. I loved Werner and his sister Jutta. His love of engineering and learning, his love for the woman who runs the orphanage, his appreciation for his best friend Friederich and his guilt at not jumping in to defend him on so many occasions. I found his story made me examine myself--he was a somewhat typical person, focused on his own plight and aware of others' problems and what was going on in the world around him, but unable to think of a way out until the end, until he is finally compelled to help Marie-Laure. I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it highly.
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