ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

August 16, 2015


In recent years I have come to know that the best writers are also prolific readers.   Individuals who study styles of fiction, non-fiction, factual documentaries, technical documents, etc.  They look at sentence structure, punctuation, and general “word-smithing”. The great ones bring readers into the story by developing the characters and plot or plots as each chapter unfolds.  I recently finished reading one of the very best books published in recent years.  I can definitely recommend to you the following:

TITLE:  “All the Light You Cannot See”

WITTEN BY: Anthony Doerr

PUBLISHED BY:  Scribner

COPYRITE: 2014

LENGTH:  544 Pages

This book has won the following prestigious awards:

  • The 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
  • 2015 Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction
  • Australian International Book Award
  • One of the ten best books of 2014 as noted by the New York Times

The book paints a marvelous picture of survival, endurance, and moral obligation as the characters deal with the atrocities that took place in Western Europe during World War II.  The story actually begins in 1940 and involves Marie Laure and her father.  They live in Paris where he works for the Museum of Natural History. He is the “keeper of the keys”, a very talented locksmith and carpenter.  Marie suffered blindness at the age of six years yet her father compensates for that blindness by constructing a small wooden village with houses, building, roads, signs and other real-life structures for her to memorize.  She carefully touches the model so venturing outside presents little confusion and less panic for someone who is blind.  She navigates by memorizing the number of steps between each landmark.  It takes time but is accomplished.

Werner, along with his sister Jutta, are German children growing up in an orphanage.  They suffer all the indignities orphans experience during wartime, including uncertainties of hunger, advancing Russian and American troops, and ill-treatment by German SS officers and soldiers.  Werner develops a great ability to build, repair and operate radios.  This ability is recognized at an early age and he is conscripted into the German army to locate members of the French underground.  He never fully converts to the German way of thinking relative to French patriots.  In the end, he is totally disillusioned with Hitler and the Third Reich.  He not only sees but feels the total deprivation generated by Hitler.  Werner’s work in trying to discover members of the French resistance is the manner in which he meets Marie Laure.

Doerr develops the story line and the characters in the same fashion an artist paints a masterpiece—one stroke at a time.  He very carefully infuses the plot with colorful characters that definitely contribute to the overall narrative.  These characters bounce into and out of the story giving added definition and insight to the overall plot. They are not always benign or accommodating to the reader and some are downright villainous in nature.   Doerr’s ability to go forward and backward in time to cover important events in the lives of the characters is marvelous, yet takes some getting used to. It’s worth the effort.

This is definitely one book in which you want to read the ending first– DO NOT.  The ending is a “twist” the author forces upon us. One that’s not too pleasing but never the less one that brings finality to the story.

I definitely recommend this book to you.  One of the best books you can buy and read.  Buy it this week.

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