Usually how this works is that I finish a book, and if I like it, I write a post about it. But the book I’m reading right now is taking me so long to finish that I really just need to post about it because it’s so good that I can’t bother to wait until I finish it to rave about it. You know?
All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is a book that I didn’t like the first time I picked it up. It seemed, for lack of a better word, boring. Painstakingly boring. But then it was just sitting on my bookshelf, so I started it again on whim and I am completely captivated. I am currently on page 349 of 529. All of the chapters are somewhere between one and three pages long, so it’s a very fast-paced form of storytelling. It is mainly told from the viewpoint of two different characters, Marie-Laure and Werner.
Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind French girl who is living in Paris with her father. Every day she walks with him to the Museum of Natural History, where he works as a lock-master. When the Germans occupy Paris during the onset of World War II, everyone flees the city, including Marie-Laure and her father. Her father is entrusted by his boss to carry a highly-valued diamond with him for safe-keeping. He doesn’t know if it is the real diamond or one of the duplicates that were made, but he must protect it with his life. Together, Marie-Laure and her father travel to Saint-Malo, a small town on the coast of France, where her Great Uncle Etienne resides in a tall, narrow house by the sea.
Werner Pfennig is an orphaned German boy who has a fascination with radios. Unfortunately, he is destined to work in the mines when he turns 15, there has never been any other option for him. Nonetheless, he spends his nights listening to radio shows in the attic with his sister Jutta and taking apart and putting back together radios in order to learn the ins-and-outs of how they work. Eventually, people start coming to him with their broken radios so he can fix them, and when an affluent family across town learns of his talent, they commission him to fix their radio. After seeing him at work, they secure him a spot at an elite academy for Hitler Youth, where he meets a boy named Frederick and is given special attention due to his skill for fixing radio transmitters.
Eventually, Marie-Laure & Werner’s paths cross, but I wouldn’t know that because I’m 60% done and it hasn’t happened yet. But that’s what the inside cover says so I’m going to trust that it will happen. The fact that they haven’t even met yet and the book is still so overwhelmingly captivating is really a testament to how good the writing is. Doerr took over ten years to complete the book, and I recommend it whole-heartedly.
Have you read All The Light We Cannot See? Thoughts? Find out more about the book here.