Monday, April 24, 2017

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Star Rating :  3.5 out of 5
Content Rating : MILD

Back Cover :
“Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.” 

My Thoughts :
I enjoyed this novel by Doerr; and yet when I finished it, I was glad it was over. I really enjoy historical fiction and I have read a lot of this time frame recently.  I enjoyed the different approach that Doerr took to his storytelling in this World War II novel. The two main characters are great. I, however, struggled with the structure and the pace of this novel.

Let’s talk about the title. This book is fully of imagery, title included. Anthony Doerr explains it this way, “The title is a reference first and foremost to all the light we literally cannot see: that is, the wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum that are beyond the ability of human eyes to detect (radio waves, of course, being the most relevant). It’s also a metaphorical suggestion that there are countless invisible stories still buried within World War II — that stories of ordinary children, for example, are a kind of light we do not typically see. Ultimately, the title is intended as a suggestion that we spend too much time focused on only a small slice of the spectrum of possibility."

This book is rated MILD. There are a few uses of strong language towards the end of the book. There is also a seen about rape; no details are given, it’s more implied. I don’t like that the author added this scene as it adds nothing to the character’s story and only seems to added as almost an afterthought.

What I liked :
  • The Characters – The two main characters are two young children that grow up in very different circumstances during World War II. One lives in France with a loving father; but, is blind. The other is an orphan living in Germany; but, is incredibly smart. At different times in the book one story line would be more compelling than the other; but, you like and root for both.
  • The Parallel Stories - I loved the play between the two stories lines of the main characters. But, this whole story is one of contrast and parallel, and how those come together. It is about light, and also about the dark. It delves into the power of science, yet it also plays with magic curse that emanates from a diamond, the Sea of Flames. It plays on logic verses faith, courage verses fear, and many others.
  • The Prose – The descriptions and wording are amazing. It is beautiful writing. You could almost close your eyes and smell the salty sticky wind from the ocean. One of the main characters is blind. So, I thought it very appropriate that the descriptions were not just visual but about touch and smell and sound.
 What I didn’t like :
  • The Pacing – I really wanted to love this book. It has a lot of great elements; however, the pacing and structure are what kept me just liking and not loving this book. I found it a bit tedious at times, like you were waiting for something important to happen that once it did left you unsatisfied. Also, some of the chapters felt too short. I’d find that I was really enjoying a certain storyline and then all of a sudden Doerr would switch change and/or the time frame. I didn’t see a huge need for the time frame jumping. I thought it would have been a much better flow and build up if the story was told straight through. I think not only did it feel choppy at times but took out the tension. 
What Others Are Saying :
“Exquisite…Mesmerizing…Nothing short of brilliant.”  -- Alice Evans Portland Oregonian

“Doerr has packed each of his scenes with such refractory material that All the Light We Cannot See reflects a dazzling array of themes….Startlingly fresh.” -- John Freeman The Boston Globe

“This tough-to-put-down book proves its worth page after lyrical page…Each and every person in this finely spun assemblage is distinct and true.” -- Sharon Peters USA Today

Reviewed by Shayna Hinshaw

Pick up your copy at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

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