Friday, July 24, 2015

All the Light We Cannot See - Anthony Doerr

All the Light We Cannot See
Title: All the Light We Cannot See
Author: Anthony Doerr
Publication Date: 5/6/15
Pages: 531
How I Found It: 2015 Pulitzer Prize winner
Date Completed: 6/20/15

Summary: As WWII and the Nazi regime descend on France, a young blind girl, Marie-Laure LeBlanc, and her museum locksmith father flee to Saint-Malo, the walled seaside city in Brittany. Meanwhile, a German orphan becomes a skilled radio operator and rises in the ranks of the Nazi army, despite his discomfort with its actions.

What I Thought: When I read The Goldfinch, the 2014 Pulitzer Prize winner for Fiction, I felt let down. After The Orphan Master's Son had so thrilled me in 2013, I felt disappointed in this, one of the most prestigious literary awards. Johnson's work struck me as exactly the type of novel which should be winning Pulitzers. Tartt's....well, go read my thoughts on that one. This is not the place. This post is all about the 2015 winner.

And what a winner. Doerr's novel is beautiful. The tone and writing felt similar to Johnson's in some ways, if only in my equal admiration of them.
Normally, I shy away from WWII era novels. For whatever reason, that time period never grabs me; I always end up feeling disinterested when authors inevitably insert too much military strategy or battle detail. Doerr's book, however, contains very little of that. He writes about people, their stories, and the effects of war upon their lives - not the war itself. 

I found Marie-Laure to be a delightful protagonist. Her blindness added a really interesting twist to the narrative. It was easy to forget, particularly in the beginning, that she could not see her surroundings. In some ways, that aspect of the story reminded me of Blindness and made me wonder if I would have enjoyed her sections even more as an audio book. Still, Doerr writes so beautifully, that I enjoyed it very much as is. 

Throwing in the added adventure of the mysterious diamond really added to the book. That subplot, in my mind, kept the focus of the narrative away from the action of the war. Yes, the war greatly impacted every single character, but the crux of the action centered around the Nazi hunt for the diamond and the museum's efforts to hide it, rather than bloody battles or horrific war crimes. 

I found this book well deserving of the Pulitzer. It was beautifully written, both poignant and light-hearted at the right moments, and full of characters earnestly desiring to make the world a better place, despite living in such a dark period of history. I have a feeling, too, that this book would only get better with each reading. 

Quotes I Loved: "To shut your eyes is to guess nothing of blindness. Beneath your world of skies and faces and buildings exists a rawer and older world, a place where surface planes disintegrate and sounds ribbon in shoals through the air."

"If only life were life a Jules Verne novel, thinks Maire-Laure, and you could page ahead when you needed to, and learn what would happen."

Rating: ★★★★☆
Will I Re-Read: I think I probably will at some point.

A Reduced Review: A beautiful novel about friendship and connection in the midst of war; well deserving of its Pulitzer Prize. 

1 comment:

  1. I have read quite a few WWII books but I think this one might be my favorite for many of the reasons you listed. The focus was not so much on the war - Doerr did not use shock and awe and jarring images to tell the story. He used people and interactions and hard choices and beautiful words and I loved it.