Sunday, April 10, 2016

Book Review: Audio Re-read of All the Light We Cannot See - Highly Recommend

What a magnificent book! When I first read Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See, I loved it so much that I went on Amazon and purchased a copy to be sent to my mother. I don't know if she and my dad ever read the book, although they did say that she was planning to read it aloud to him on some upcoming trip. The words flow like silk and the characters loom like specters (in the sense that they rise like ghosts become material, not in the sense of being threatening or menacing).

This time around, when my book club selected this as our April read, I decided to seek out the audio version of the book and listen while walking on my treadmill. The benefit of listening is that the words simply flow out and sound more like poetry when spoken aloud than it seemed when I read the book to myself and the words were simply passing across my consciousness. It was, again, a magical experience and no less potent because it was the second time around.

Doerr skillfully weaves the stories of the lives of two young people, a German boy and a French blind girl, across the years of World War II until they collide in one riveting scene in the midst of the war. Werner Pfennig is a deeply intelligent boy who has a knack for fixing radios (something very handy to the German cause). Marie-Laure is the daughter of the key master for the Museum of Natural History in Paris. When the war breaks out, her father is sent away with one of the museum's most valuable possessions. Since three duplicates were produced and sent out as well, Marie-Laure and her father cannot know whether they carry the valuable piece or not, but one German Commandant is determined to find the real stone.

Apart from a plot that thickens and thickens causing the reader to remain riveted in the pages of the book (I stayed up until 2 a.m. reading when I read the book physically the first time around), the prose is simply stunning. The book took ten years to write and you can tell that the author spent that time honing and fine-tuning until the words were presented like the jewel he describes (The Sea of Flames), a marvelous thing to behold.

The book brings forth so many things to think about. The futility and brutality of war. The transient nature of our lives. The importance of kindness and love. The importance of fully living one's life. The strength of the bonds of family. The misplaced value we often put on things over people. The question of the impact of fate or destiny. I could sit and think about this novel for hours and I'm really anticipating great discussion on the night of our book club. It truly is a must-read!

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