Monday, February 2, 2015

All the Light We Cannot See

by Anthony Doer
530 pgs

All the Light We Cannot See is one of the best books I've read in a long time. It's been on the NYT bestseller list for the past five months now and it was voted one of the top 10 books of 2014 by Amazon. Its popularity and critical acclaim are both well deserved. I know it's a little cliché to say, but I really didn't want this one to end. Doerr uses two very different main characters to tell his story: a French girl and a German boy, both young children as World War II begins in Europe.

Marie-Laure LeBlanc's father is the locksmith at the Museum of Natural History in Paris. He has a gift for carving model buildings and building intricate lock boxes that he uses to hide his young daughter's birthday treats in every year. When Marie-Laure goes blind at the age of six, her father carves an amazing replica of the city they live in, enabling her to  memorize the streets and buildings in it until she's eventually able to navigate around the real city independently and with confidence. 

Werner Pfinnig didn't have the same parental support that Marie-Laure did. Werner grew up an orphan in Germany, but Werner was a young boy with an inquisitive mind and an innate understanding of electrical circuits and radio waves. At a very young age Werner demonstrated his gift by building a shortwave radio and using it to stay up late at night listening to a man give lectures on various scientific topics. His talents eventually garnered the attention of the Third Reich and led to a job in the Nazi party of locating unauthorized radio transmissions in Nazi-occupied France.

Doerr repeatedly alternates between the stories of his two main characters as their paths slowly and inevitably cross. I can't compliment the writing, the story, and the characters Doerr creates in this book highly enough. It's a must read and the type of book that will stick in your mind long after it's over.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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