All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: 2014
Source: Copy provided by the publisher
The Short Version:
A blind French girl and a German boy with a fascination for radios parallel stories intersect in Saint Malo France at the end of World War II.
Why I Read It:
An extended review in Shelf Awareness prompted me to add this book to my reading list.
From the publisher:
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.
This was a beautifully told story and a book I highly recommend. I was enchanted by the prose and the characters of Marie-Laure and Werner from the very beginning.
The book opens as the allies are bombing Saint-Malo in August of 1944 in an effort to rout the Nazi soldiers holed up in the ancient walled city. Marie-Laure and Werner are both there. Then the story shifts to 1934 and begins to fill in their parallel stories. There are time and location shifts throughout the book in short chapters that shift back and forth between the two main characters and their stories that will eventually intersect.
The story is a complex one with a broad scope. Werner’s story is that of the young boys and men of Hitter’s empire and how they were indoctrinated and used. Marie-Laure’s story is that of the civilians of France as the German occupation and Allied invasion changed their home and lives. Mare-Laure’s father’s story is that of a man trying to keep his daughter safe and also do his part to protect the treasures of the Louvre from the greedy hands of the Nazis.
It’s charming, beautiful, tragic and hopeful all at the same time. Don’t miss this one.