Friday, June 3, 2016

Five Star Friday - All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

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It recently came to my attention (because I searched for it) that of the 407 books listed as "read" on my Goodreads page, I have given a full five stars to a mere 64 (just under 16%). I want to make book posts more regular on here, so every Friday I'm going to talk about a book I've rated 5/5. Starting with this - my first five star read of 2016.

Published | April 2015
Page Count | 544
Genre(s) | Historical Fiction | War Fiction | WWII

Winner of the Pulitzer Price for Fiction 2015

A story about a blind French girl and a young German soldier who are linked by the horrors of World War II. We follow Marie-Laure as her city is being evacuated. Her father, a museum locksmith, is also a skilled model maker and has made a model of the city for Marie-Laure so she can learn to find her way around. We meet Werner in 1934 at the orphanage where he lives. He has a natural way with electronics, particularly radio equipment - this talent earns him a place in the National Political Institute of Education, eventually ending up with him being enlisted to the army. Although neither Marie or Werner know each other, their lives are linked and they will prove to have an effect on each other.

It's written in short chapters, so there was a lot of "just one more chapter" going on while I read it. I found it easy to read and thought the main characters and settings were distinctive enough so that I never had to go back and check who I was reading about.

The book is about survival during the very darkest times - both physically and metaphorically. My understanding of the title was that it was a nod to both Marie-Laure's inability to see physically and Werner looking for a light at the end of the tunnel, but the author explains that's it literal:

It’s a reference first and foremost to all the light we literally cannot see: that is, the wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum that are beyond the ability of human eyes to detect (radio waves, of course, being the most relevant). It’s also a metaphorical suggestion that there are countless invisible stories still buried within World War II — that stories of ordinary children, for example, are a kind of light we do not typically see. Ultimately, the title is intended as a suggestion that we spend too much time focused on only a small slice of the spectrum of possibility.

I'll give five stars to something if it's the kind of book that gives me a book hangover - that takes me days to get over, one that I miss when it's finished. This was that kind of book - I wanted to post a picture of the cover to every book group I'm a member of, I wanted to talk about it with people and recommend it. It was a January pick in The Rick O'Shea Book Club, and I thought it was an excellent book club choice. It was wonderfully descriptive, even Marie-Laure's chapters, which is a feat in itself considering she had to rely on her other senses to describe what was going on around her.

I had one issue with one scene towards the end of the book that disappointed me - I felt that it was gratuitous and lent nothing to the story. I won't confess to knowing a huge amount about WWII, so I don't know if it was commonplace at the time, but it felt a little out of place compared to the rest of the book (it's in the "Berlin" chapter).

The rest of the book was so enjoyable that I felt it deserved the full five stars - I loved how the two characters were linked, and I thought the author did a great job of portraying the War from both sides.

I'd absolutely recommend it, apart from being a great piece of historical fiction, it's a wonderful story about survival, hope, and solace.

(click a cover for more information)

1 comment:

Talk at me!