Tag Archives: Book Club Reading List

Review: All The Light We Cannot See

All The Light We Cannot See

All The Light We Cannot See
By Anthony Doerr
(Scribner Book Company, Hardcover, 9781476746586, May 2014, 531pp.)

The Short of It:

An absorbing story but not as riveting as I had hoped it to be.

The Rest of It:

This story is basically about two people, Marie-Laure,  a blind girl living with her father in France before the German occupation of France and Werner Pfenning, a young German boy, orphaned and living with his sister Jutta in a home for orphaned children.

Marie-Laure’s father is the key holder of the Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle, which is where a gemstone called the Sea of Flame is kept safe, at least for a time  Much of the story is about this stone and its whereabouts because in order to protect it, fake stones are handed out for safekeeping, the protectors unsure which stone is in fact the real gem.

As Marie-Laure tries to survive in France while her father is away, Werner has been chosen to attend an elite school for the Third Reich. His knack with all things electronic, primarily radios and how they work, make him a coveted asset to the Third Reich.

As you can imagine, the two stories intersect at some point and when they do, you can’t help but be swept up by it all. Marie-Laure is blind but a lover of books; books which are mentioned often in the novel itself. In between the serious bits, are fantastical parts of the story that lessen its blow somewhat, but at the same time, made it slightly unrealistic for me.

It’s not fantasy. I want to be clear about that but Doerr’s delivery lends a fantastical nature to the story. There’s a hidden room behind a wardrobe, a secret grotto, miniature houses,  and to me, it smacked of convenience (a little bit) and took me out of the story a few times.

We read this for book club and everyone enjoyed it, as did I. Maybe the hype of winning the Pulitzer had me thinking it would be a little more than what it was.  Not sure but it fell a little flat for me and I found myself skimming towards the end.

Overall, it was a good read but there were times where I found myself questioning the events that took place and each time that happened, I was pulled out of the story. It read like a screenplay. Very visual, and that part I enjoyed quite a bit. I thought it had been optioned for a movie but surprisingly,  I don’t think that has happened yet.

Have you read it? What did you think?

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: Waiting for Snow in Havana

Waiting for Snow in Havana

Waiting for Snow in Havana
By Carlos Eire
(Free Press, Paperback, 9780743246415, 2004, 390pp.)

The Short of It:

A young boy’s take on Cuba before and after Fidel Castro.

The Rest of It:

Waiting for Snow in Havana is both an exorcism and an ode to a paradise lost. For the Cuba of Carlos’s youth—with its lizards and turquoise seas and sun-drenched siestas—becomes an island of condemnation once a cigar-smoking guerrilla named Fidel Castro ousts President Batista on January 1, 1959. Suddenly the music in the streets sounds like gunfire. Christmas is made illegal, political dissent leads to imprisonment, and too many of Carlos’s friends are leaving Cuba for a place as far away and unthinkable as the United States. Carlos will end up there, too, and fulfill his mother’s dreams by becoming a modern American man—even if his soul remains in the country he left behind. –Simon & Schuster

I was pleasantly surprised by this book. Given the subject matter, I expected it to be more factual but Eire chose to focus on his idyllic childhood. His childhood is fantastical in nature as Carlos was a very imaginative child. His mother, referred to as Marie Antoinette and his father Louis XVI, are rather mysterious figures. They are well-off but the father is preoccupied with his material wealth, more so than his family’s well-being.  So when the family is torn apart, it seems that the burden of responsibility falls on Carlos himself.

Written years later, Eire’s book is full of charm and wit but it’s apparent while reading just how painful his story is to tell. In fact, he’s often said that he wanted this to be a work of fiction, not a memoir and I must tell you, it does read like fiction so for those of you who shy away from memoirs, this might be a good one for you to grab.

My book club read this and we discussed it a couple of weeks ago.  I think we were all in agreement that the writing was lovely, but many felt nothing for Carlos. He was wealthy and spoiled and this prevented many from being able to relate to his story but I don’t know, there is something horrifying about living in a dream world and then being thrown into reality at such a young age. It’s almost more tragic.

Overall, a good discussion book, lovely writing and you’ll learn a little about pre-war Cuba.

Waiting for Snow in Havana won the National Book Award in 2003.

Source: Borrowed
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