Sunday, August 14, 2016

"All the Light We Cannot See" by Anthony Doerr


Rating: 4/5 stars (I might have given it 5 stars, except that I reserve 5 stars for very few books intentionally.)

So many things about this book are beautiful, including the writing style, characters, settings, and themes. (Also, the cover. Let's not forget to admire the cover.) Simply lovely, and not because these things are perfect or whole, but because they're real and dynamic and human amidst a world that is dark and ruthless. The greater the darkness, the brighter the light shines. From the beginning, the book reminded me of The Book Thief, one of my favorite novels. The writing style is stellar and the descriptive language Doerr employs is flawless. Here are some excerpts that show off his knack at imagery (it's difficult to narrow down this list, as there are so many wonderful ones I underlined):

"...leafless trees stand atop slag heaps like skeleton hands shoved up from the underworld."
"He looks out the open door across the silent camp to where the stars are spun in thousands across the sky."
"All around the Opel, the flowers creak on their stems and nod their heliotropic faces as if in some sad accord."

While we're on writing style, I want to point out something I noticed as a writer. The story is written in 3rd person point of view in present tense. I can't remember if I've seen that done before, but Doerr makes it work seamlessly.

The characters are so well-developed and I connected with them and their struggles effortlessly. I didn't have a moment when I didn't care for the characters (truly the mark of a good author). The relationship between Marie-Laure and her father is beautiful; he would give anything for her and he helps her become independent and optimistic despite her blindness. He knows she is special, and he is so proud of who she is becoming:

"There is pride...that he has done it alone. That his daughter is so curious, so resilient. There is the humility of being a father to someone so powerful, as if he were only a narrow conduit for another, greater thing. That's how it feels right now, he though his love for his daughter will outstrips the limits of his body. The walls could fall away, even the whole city, and the brightness of that feelings would not wane."

He shows true, sacrificial love for her. And then there is Etienne, Marie-Laure's "crazy" uncle. Marie and Etienne are both broken for different reasons, but together, they help each other overcome their weaknesses and see the beauty despite the war closing in around them. Through Werner, the other main character, Doerr shows a young boy trapped in a system, striving to hold onto truth and goodness in a world being transformed by Germany's goal of genetic perfection. Is there any hope?, he wonders:

"Why bother to make music when the silence and wind are so much larger? Why light lamps when the darkness will inevitably snuff them?"

These are fundamental question we all ask. Why strive to do good, when evil always seems to win? Is it worth it and does it matter? Yes. A thousand times, yes.

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