All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Lilla and I did another book swap! This means that she’s still ploughing through the 900 pages or so of Paris: the Novel by Edward Rutherford, and that I returned A Traveller’s History of Paris by Robert Cole. This also means that I borrowed two more books! And promised to lend Lilla one that I just bought; it’s coming in the mail soon. If you’re curious, it’s also about Paris. The first of Lilla’s two books that I decided to crack open is All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I picked it becuase it’s historical fiction, and the other book, The Hapsburgs, is not. I’ll be reading that next.

Quick plot summary:

Marie-Laure is a blind Parisian girl living with her father in Paris. He takes care of all the locks at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle. He builds an exact, miniature replica of their neighborhood in Paris’ 5th Arrondissement so that Marie-Laure can find her way around the city. When the Nazis occupy Paris, they go to Saint Malo to stay with Marie-Laure’s great-uncle Etienne.

Werner is an orphaned German boy who, because of his genius, ends up in an elite Nazi academy. While living in the orphanage he tinkers with and fixes a radio. He and his younger sister Jutta spend evenings listening to an educational radio program by a Frenchman. After Werner leaves, Jutta asks him hard questions about his morals and values in her letters, which he chooses to push to the back of his mind. Eventually Werner and Marie-Laure meet each other in Saint Malo, where Werner learns that the educational program he and Jutta used to listen to was the voice of Marie-Laure’s grandfather.

I’m going to read this book again.

Besides the simpler themes of right and wrong, examining our morals under hard circumstances, hoping, persevering, and questioning goodness, I feel like there is a lot that I didn’t catch. Of what I did, however, the first thing that I noticed is that Doerr very accutely allows the reader to understand what it is like to be blind. The details in which he describes Marie-Laure’s world- the models of the towns, how she runs her fingers along the replicas, as she counts the storm drains and feels the uneven pavement beneath her feet- I can immagine it all, yet in a strange way, it’s dark, the Marie-Laure lives.

Another character of interest is a German soldier named Von Rumpel. He is dying of cancer, and desperately seeks the Sea of Flames, a mythical, mystical blue diamond with a firey core. As I followed his journey throughout the book, I thought a few things:

1. Why do we choose to believe what we believe?

2. Desperation is a powerful driving force.

3. Is hope more powerful? Or only fueled by desperation?

4. We are afraid of dying.

Although I found Von Rumpel disgusting and detestable, he is a thoughtful examination and representation into and of the human nature, and what we are capable of.

Happy reading!

Marissa

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