Sunday, August 3, 2014

All the Light We Cannot See

Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.

I'm stingy with my 5-star ratings.  Sometimes I regret that and try to change, but then a book like All the Light We Cannot See comes along and simply deserves to stand above the rest.  If I weren't stingy with my 5, I'd have to break the rules and give this a 6 or 10 or 100 and that's a spiral I'm not ready to slide down.

Doerr's new book came to me in a Powell's Indiespensable shipment.  I didn't know much about it, except that it told the story of a blind French girl and an orphaned German boy as their lives converged during World War II. (And that it has short chapters.  I love short chapters.  Makes me feel so accomplished.)

From the start, the mood is magic.  Doerr illuminates the small thoughts and actions that create how a person or a place feels. It was familiar, and yet completely new.  The settings were vivid, and the characters were whole, genuine people. Themes run through the book so seamlessly that you can give them as little or as much attention as you want.  The writing is poetic but not heavy (nor too sparse). There is family and love, action and mystery, good and evil. There is literature, science, art, history and technology. The story switched back and forth between different times, yet remained organized and easy to follow.

It seems big enough to contain everything anyone could ever feel.

Looking back at World War II, it is easy to wonder how it was possible.  How did the Germans go along with this plan? How did people let this happen? Why didn't people stand up and object? When this question is taken out of the philosophical, however, it is easy to see how human nature compartmentalizes actions and events in order to cope with reality. From the way Marie-Laure adjusts to being blind in a city the size of Paris with only her father to help her, to Werner's ambitions to escape the fate of the coal mines that claimed his father's life, we see very real examples of how difficult it is to accurately assess the big picture and apply it to your life.

I recommend this book heartily! It's been a long time since I've read a novel as complete and filling as this.

6 comments:

  1. I still cannot believe that I've not finished this novel. I liked the first 50-75 pages that I read, but as is often the case with work, once I got a feel for tone and literary content, I had to move on to read something else. I really do hope to pick this one back up to finish. And don't you just love the luminosity on the jacket cover?

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    1. The reading went quick, if that helps. You never know with a 500+ page book if it's going to go fast or slow but this was kind of a compulsive read for me.

      I mentioned this book to one of the booksellers in my local book shop and she hadn't gotten to it yet but said she's had a couple other people mention it to her. Made me think again how difficult it would be to have to keep up with everything being published! Gives "pleasure reading" a new significance!

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  2. I 've read only 1 "5 star" book this year - so I need to get my hands on this. It's been a long while since I've been blown away by a book so I'm looking forward to this.

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    1. This was my second 5 star book this year, and the previous one was from January. I've had a lot that came close, which had me wondering if I should just adjust my expectations, but then this one came along. I hope that you enjoy it!

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  3. I'm so glad to hear that this book is as good as it looks. I'm #42 on the library list now--Ha! I may have to go to Barnes and Noble today to buy it.

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    1. 42 is better than what it was a month ago! I'm glad I decided to go ahead and jump into it, and hope you are able to get your hands on it soon. I felt like it was really well balanced - strong in multiple areas. I'm looking forward to seeing what you think.

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