Friday, October 17, 2014

Book Review: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr/Historical Fiction

Hello dear Readers,

Today, I'm doing my book review on All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.

Title: All the Light We Cannot See
Author: Anthony Doerr
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Scribner, First Edition (May 6, 2014)
Language: English
Hardcover: 544 Pages

Book Description

From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the beautiful, stunningly ambitious instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

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.

My thoughts
*I gave 5/5 stars on Goodreads

I do not usually describe a book with one word. Books can make me feel so many different things that is always hard to come up with one word. However, like everything in life, sometimes we can make exceptions and that is what I am doing with this book, an exception, because if you ask me for one word it would be Perfection. 

I would like to start my review by sharing  two things on why I liked the book that much and how I knew about it. First, and you do not necessarily have to agree with me on this one, but a book that has the power to grasp you from the beginning to the end, through 530 pages, that has to mean something. And the second reason is, I have always liked reading about World War II.  Any book or story that has to do with it, in one way or another has always interested me.

I did not know about this book. I did not even know the author lives in the same city I do. One day, I went to my local library and I saw they were having him for a reading and a book signing on his newest book. I love going to readings, specially if it is at the library. I decided I would look for the book and see what was it about. All the books were checked out so I did not have the chance to see it but that made me realized one thing, the book must be really good. They had a lot of copies and all checked-out plus 44 holds. Since I could not do anything about the fact that all the copies were checked-out, I asked if there were any other books written by Anthony Doerr and they had one copy of his Memoir: Four Seasons in Rome. I was really excited about it because I love reading Memoirs. I read it and liked it. When I got home that day, I took a look at the book All the Light We Cannot See on the internet. The cover is beautiful, the colors. Then, I read about the book, I wanted to have an idea on what was the book about and it immediately captured me. A few days after that, the library purchased more copies of the book. I was able to borrow a copy and when I actually saw the book, I felt in love with it. 

I wanted to finish the book before the reading but it was impossible. A few hours before it started, I was on page 100.  When I got to the library, it was packed. Another sign for me that it was going to be good. And it was. It turned out to be one of the best readings I have ever been to. Except for the fact that one of the ladies there spoiled us on how one of the main characters ends (we did not like that at all but I guess, things like that happen), I still think it was a great evening. Anthony Doerr prepared this presentation to explain when the idea of writing this book came from, how the writing process was, a little bit of the story behind it and I particularly liked that because I was just expecting him to introduce himself, do a little talk about the book, do the reading, then the signing and leave. He did read a few pages but that presentation made the whole thing different, made me want to go home and keep reading the book, non-stop.  

Now, lets talk about the book. Anything you are looking for on a book, this one has it. A well written book, well developed characters, the story, how well organized it is. One of the things I liked the most about it was the short chapters of alternating characters. In my case, it helped the reading process to be smooth. Alternating characters in that way can be confusing for the reader but I think the author did a great job on maintaining the events very well organized, the flow of the story is so well structured that I never got lost or confused with any of the character's stories. 

There is a lot of description. That can be dangerous if the the writer does not know how to use it but again, in this case, it helped me to better understand the characters, what they were going through, how they were feeling. I wanted to read it slow, so I would not miss any detail. The power of description and what can be accomplished when a story is well written, it was almost like I knew what it was like to be blind or what having such passion for something can be like. I felt like I was there, literally, I felt that way through the whole book, like I could touch the characters.

The characters. The main two characters. Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History. He works as the master of all the many locks are there. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind. Her father decides to build a miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris so they have to leave their house and went to this city called Saint-Malo. This is where Marie-Laure's uncle lives. 
 Then we have Werner. He is an orphan who lives in Germany with his younger sister Jutta, fascinated by a radio and an expert on how to fix them, his talents got him a place on this academy for the Hitler Youth. They both have something in common, a radio, and because of his talents on reparing them and tracking the resistance, that is how Werner ends in Saint-Malo  and his story and Marie-Laure's converge.

There is more on the history of course but I do not want to spoil it for you. I just want to say, one of my other favorite things on this book, that really touched me, were the letters that Marie-Laure's father sent her when he ended in Germany and Marie-Laure had to stay with her uncle Etienne and Madame Manec. How his father always tried his best to protect her, to assure her he was fine and nothing bad was going on. How much he loved her and how much she loved him. I will share one, the one I liked the most:

Dearest Marie-Laure-

The others in my cell are mostly kind. Some tell jokes. Here's one: Have you heard about the Wehrmacht exercise program? Yes, each morning you raise your hands above your head and leave them there!
Ha ha. My angel has promised to deliver this letter for me at great risk. It is very safe to be out of the "Gasthaus" for a bit. We are building a road now and the work is good. 
My body is getting stronger. Today I saw an oak tree disguised as a chestnut tree. I think it is called a chestnut oak. I would like very much to ask some of the botanists in the gardens about it when we get home.
I hope you and Madame and Etienne will keep sending things. They say will be allowed to receive one parcel each, so something has to go through eventually. I doubt they would let me keep any tools but it would be wonderful if they would.
You absolutely would not believe how pretty it is here ma cherie, and how far we are from danger. I am incredibly safe, as safe as I can be.

Your Papa.

Perfect, amazing, beautiful, heartbreaking. All these words describe this book. Anthony Doerr shows us through the characters, through the story, how, even in the most difficult, horrible times, when we think there is no hope, that there is no meaning or purpose in life, there is that unseen light that can in a moment, easily, make everything better.

If you decide to read this book, hope you enjoy it


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