“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little peek at what the book’s about and what I thought.
Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When Marie-Laure is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris, and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.
In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.
I’m not sure I have anything new to add to the oodles of gushing reviews already written about this book. The writing is thoughtful and lovely, with surprising imagery and carefully crafted descriptions of the world inhabited by the characters. Despite the horrors of war, the book itself is beautiful, even when depicting horrific acts and circumstances.
It did take me a good third of the book to truly get into the back and forth approach to the narrative, with shifts in perspective, character focus, and timelines. That being said, I ended up completely enthralled by this book, and despite its length, felt that I would have wanted even more. The two main characters themselves, Marie-Laure and Werner, are both so well-developed that I came to care deeply about them and felt that I really understood them. Even Werner, who tacitly condones terrible acts by doing nothing to prevent them, has an inner life that makes him a very flawed but understandable character, and his life is tragic in its own way every bit as much as some of the more obviously heroic characters’ lives.
The setting and the supporting characters are all lovingly drawn, and the writing simply glows. This book is hard to describe, other than to call it a must-read.
Title: All the Light We Cannot See
Author: Anthony Doerr
Publication date: May 6, 2014
Length: 531 pages
Genre: Historical fiction