Normally my book choices are very methodical. I have carefully ordered lists and stacks, plans and schedules that dictate what books I read, when. Structure and organization make the world go round, my friends...
Only one thing will cause me to deviate from my carefully laid out book nerd plans: A recommendation from my Aunt Elaine.
She has never, ever steered me wrong. Throughout the years, her suggestions have always been so unfalteringly fantastic and spot on that I've learned to virtually drop whatever I happen to be reading, and pick up her latest starred literary treasure as soon as I can. I've never been disappointed.
So when I received her email about All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, I had it downloaded to my Kindle the same afternoon. And the next morning I practically missed my bus stop because I was so engrossed. As I said... spot on, every time.
All the Light We Cannot See is a beautiful, stunningly ambitious 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. When she is six, she goes blind, and her father builds her a scale model of their neighborhood 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.
Werner and his younger sister, Jutta, grow up as orphans in Germany, 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. He deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, illuminating the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.
I tore ravenously through this book. It was beautifully written, with rich characterization and descriptions. I feel like I will never get enough of WWII novels, but this was one of my favorites that I've read. The pacing was terrific, and the story alternately terrifying, moving, and heart-warming. I tried to slow down so that I could savor each paragraph as I neared the end, but it still came all too quickly.
Doerr definitely deserves the Pulitzer Prize he was awarded for this stunning book.