Tuesday, May 27, 2014

All the Light We Cannot See

Anthony Doerr
All the Light We Cannot See

Scribner, 2014

The structure of the novel is that the main events take place in August 1944 in France, and the background of major events begins in 1934. The author alternates between the two characters and the two countries, Germany and France.

In 1934, Marie-Laure, six-year-old girl, lives with her father in Paris. He works as a locksmith and in a museum in Paris. By the beginning of the novel the girl has completely lost her eyesight and now relies entirely on sound, smell and touch. Growing up at the museum, Marie-Laure knows almost all exhibits, guide’s stories, as well as the legend associated with the most valuable item in the museum - hidden in the vault the diamond size of an egg with, which, according to legend, has a curse. The father of the little girl masters castles and houses in miniature. On these models the girl learns to distinguish objects by touch, and later to walk unaided. Using a cane, Marie-Laure can safely move into a familiar space. The girl does not go to school (at that time, apparently, there was no school for children with disabilities), but her father every year gives her books for the blind. Marie-Laure learns to read and absorb with gusto "Around the World in 80 Days", " 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea", and later a volume of Darwin.

In 1934 the second book hero Werner Pfennig was seven. He and his sister Jutta are orphans living in the child's home in the small German town. Werner since childhood manifested a talent for fixing mechanical objects, especially radios. Being eight-years-old he could with his eyes closed assemble and disassemble the radio. Gradually, word of his talent spread around, and the neighbors began to bring their receivers to Werner for repaire. With his sister in the evenings he listened to a French wave, where a man read fairy tales. Thanks to their teacher Frau Elena, the brother and sister learned French and could listen to the radio.

All the boys from the orphanage are expected to become miners, once they reach 15. But Werner shows his talent, receives a letter of recommendation from the local man, passes the entrance exams to elite school, where young talented men are trained for the Third Reich. Werner successfully passes the exams and goes to an elite school, promising to write to his sister. Jutta is worried about her brother, realizing the danger of the Nazis that came to power. But Werner does not care about the war, he just wants to go to university in Berlin and study Physics.

Anthony Doerr has written what seems to be quite realistic book, but it reads as something fantastic, something out of Jules Verne, whose books coincidentally the heroine of the novel reads. The story itself is full of adventures, mysterious artifacts, references to fairy tales, incredible coincidences and bright and pure love. War according to Doerr has nothing to do with the reality of war, this is romantic world, fantasy of sorts. But if the writer is a romantic, it does not make him worse than others. The war has given a premise to thousands of stories, and romantic ones have the same right to exist as a purely realistic.

Two heroes of Doerr’s book are on opposite sides, one potentially on the side of evil, the other on the side of good. It is hard, however, not to sympathize them both, if the author is equally fond of his characters. Werner is not guilty, that he was born in Germany and grew up without parents. It's not his fault that he was born with the talent and wanted to develop his talent. He just wanted to go to university, wanted to do things he loveв to do, wanted his sister to be proud of him. He was not a soldier (Marie-Laure later remember that Werner’s hands were even smaller than her hands), he was a young talented boy. “What the war did to dreamers” – Jutta’s words in the finale of the novel, meaming war killed people like him, are in many ways a reflection of the whole work.

Doerr runs slightly ahead with the chapters of August 1944, but the intrigue definitely is saved until the very end. The finale can break any heart made of stone, and even epilogue’s chapters does not seem superfluous.

This charming story is lightly smeared by stylistic flaws. Doerr uses abrupt, short sentences, especially in the beginning of the book, which are contrary to the atmosphere of the novel. These sentences express banalities devoid of individuality and often present only stylistic beauty. Once the author extends a sentence, the novel begins to move faster. Doerr has a vivid style and the use of obvious epithets only hurts the style.

All the Light We Cannot See is an undoubted success, and only the blind won’t see the author’s talent.

1 comment:

  1. I started reading this on my Kindle and found myself wishing I had purchased the hardcover so I could thumb back and forth to reread certain passages. The story touched me at a very deep and spiritual place. I plan to read it again. So much to absorb and think about.

    Top rated Landscaping Olympia WA click here