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?
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