(Author: Anthony Doerr) + (Year: 2014) + (Goodreads)
1. superb; excellent; great.
2. such as to cause wonder, admiration, or astonishment; surprising;extraordinary.
3. improbable or incredible.
This book is excruciatingly beautiful. It is a true feast for the senses. The writing is absolutely wondrous. Every sentence, every paragraph feels like chocolate, melting on your tongue. Such indescribable beauty, words fail me.
“Cars splash along streets, and snowmelt drums through runnels; she can hear snowflakes tick and patter through the trees. She can smell the cedars in the Jardin des Plantes a quarter mile away. Here the Metro hurtles beneath the sidewalk: that’s the Quai Saint-Bernard. Here the sky opens up, and she hears the clacking of branches: that’s the narrow stripe of gardens behind the Gallery of Paleontology. This, she realizes, must be the quay and rue Cuvier.”
All the Light We Cannot See is the story of a blind French girl, called Marie-Laure, and a German boy, called Werner, and their struggles during WWII and afterwards. The story is set in different places, Marie-Laure is a Parisian who later lives in Saint-Malo and Werner is an orphan from Zollverein who travels with the German army to Poland, Russia, the Czech Republic, and more, to finally find his own way to the little town of Saint-Malo.
Have you watched the movie Hugo? Grand Hotel Budapest? All the Light We Cannot See possesses the same quality that these two movies do: it’s a story. But it’s a fairytale.
The world as seen through the narrative of Marie-Laure is an incredible place. I had never read a book about a blind person before and I have no idea how other authors deal with such books, but Doerr did an immaculate job. I could feel, taste and hear everything that Marie-Laure did.
Marie-Laure is a young blind girl, who loves going to the museum with her father, reading Verne and counting the storm drains. She is endlessly curious and adventurous, despite having lost her sight. Marie-Laure is so beautifully written that I couldn’t help but immerse myself with her. I tried to imagine every situation as she would feel in it, I even tried imagining navigating around my room without seeing it.
Marie-Laure is also very, very wise and magical.
He says, “You are very brave.”
She lowers the bucket. “What’s your name?”
He tells her. She says, “When I lost my sight, people said I was brave. When my father left, people said I was brave. But it is not bravery; I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don’t you do the same?”
He says, “Not in years. But today. Today maybe I did.”
Werner is a very ambiguous character. At first I thought he was absolutely endearing, the way he fixed his old radio, the way he took care of his little sister.
“He was small. He had white hair and ears that stuck out. He buttoned the collar of his jacket up around his throat when he was cold and drew his hands up inside the sleeves.”
But as the book went, Werner was faced with some choices and I couldn’t say I agree with his decisions. Maybe it was the point of the book what he redeems his sins, maybe they were not supposed to be seen as sins, I do not know. I liked him at first, then felt disappointment towards him, at the end I felt pain and sadness and desire and hope that he rights the wrongs, wins his battle. I think he did.
***One of the things which made me think twice about everything Werner did was the movie Die Welle . In my opinion this is a MUST-WATCH for everyone, it puts the entire Third Reich into perspective.
Werner was also the character I think puts the events in motion. He is a sort of driving power for a lot of the characters, all in different perspectives.
Etienne and Daniel LeBlanc were the two sides of coin, both were Marie-Laure’s father. Daniel with his desperation to be enough of a father, to make his daughter unafraid to go into the world, with his models and his keys and his gifts. And Etienne, who came for her, back in the grotto. Who read her books and cared for her.
One of my favourite characters was Volkheimer. He was the character I had the hardest time understanding. We see him as a giant brute and a killer, who however liked to play classical music for the small children in school and is always so very protective of Werner, until the very end, and in a way, beyond. I thought about it and I still don’t fully understand him. Maybe that’s his beauty.
Magic and Faith
Despite this book being historical fiction and set in our world, and not in a supernatural one, there was an element of belief in magic. The entire story about the Sea of Flames was for me the interpretation of the characters’ need to believe, so desperate, in fact, that it seemed to be able to physically intervene in the story. It is in the times of greatest need that faith manifests itself, and the diamond represents just that. At moments when the characters think that they’ve reached the borders of their endurance under the burdens of life and war, they somehow find strength to go on fighting, living and hoping.
“Clair de Lune”, or Music #1, Music #2 and Music #3
Those three were my favourite chapters. The entire book is ingenious, but those three chapters possess an otherworldly quality. They kept me holding my breath while an absolute explosion of music, thought and beauty was building up.
I will assume that you have heard “Clair de Lune”. You can listen to it again.
00:07 What mazes there are in this world. (…) None more complicated than the human brain, Etienne would say, what may be the most complex object in existence; one wet kilogram within which spin universes.
00:35 He listens to the notes and the silences between them, and then he finds himself leading horses through a forest at dawn, trudging through snow behind his great-grandfather, who walks with a saw draped over his huge shoulders, the snow squeaking beneath boots and hooves, all the trees above them whispering and creaking.
01:55 Then Veronika sings so softly that he cannot hear the words, only the melody, less like sounds made by a human voice and more like the notes made by a piano, and the dolls dance, swaying from foot to foot.
02:35 She says, “Come and get me.”
“For a split second, the space around Werner tears in half, as though the last molecules of oxygen have been ripped out…”
“Her voice is like a bright, clear window of sky. Her face a field of freckles. He thinks: I don’t want to let you go.”