‘Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.’
For Marie-Laure, blind since the age of six, the world is full of mazes. The miniature of a Paris neighbourhood, made by her father to teach her they way home. The microscopic layers within the invaluable diamond that her father guards in the Museum of Natural History. The walled city by the sea, where father and daughter take refuge when the Nazis invade Paris. And a future which draws her ever closer to Werner, a German orphan, destined to labour in the mines until a broken radio fills his life with possibility and brings him to the notice of the Hitler Youth.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is the most beautiful book. It’s been on my list for ages, and is the 2015 Pulitzer Prize winner. I was so passionate about it, telling everyone about it and recommending it. I had forgotten that it is a WWII book, I find the subject so interesting, and because of the angle of French Revolution, really from the viewpoint of a child/16-year-old it is very unique.
I found the character of Marie-Laure a wonderful creation. Her relationship with her father is the most loving, magical thing. ‘The despair doesn’t last. Marie-Laure is too young and her father is too patient.’ The wooden replica of the city, the little wooden puzzle boxes that her father fashions with a bon bon or truffle inside for her birthday, are so precious and intricate. Marie-Laure and her father are forced to flee to Saint-Malo and a ‘76% crazy’ great-uncle when the Germans arrive.
At the beginning I found Werner’s story boring, and I just wanted to get back to France and Marie-Laure, but Werner’s interest in science and technology and Etienne-the-great-uncle’s attic secret interconnect and I began to hope for/dread the connecting of the two characters. Werner is eventually posted in France…
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The writing is absolutely beautiful. There are so many devastating moments made beautiful by the sentences. The observations, the relationships, the trust. I pretty much loved it and I think you should read it.
‘Do you think, Madame, that in heaven we will really get to see God face-to-face’
‘What if you’re blind?’
‘I’d expect that of God wants us to see something, we’ll see it.’
The war intensifies and Werner is forced to do more and more things that haunt him, bringing him closer and closer to Marie-Laure who is doing her bit with her nervous great-uncle for France. The story flashes forwards and backwards and it flows. It’s full of suspense and is utterly captivating.
I can’t wait to read more by Mr Doerr, and this story will remain with me.