Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Blinded by The Light

“Enthrallingly told, beautifully written and so emotionally plangent that some passages bring tears.”
The Washington Post

Anthony Doerr was interested in the magic of radio. The idea of millions of messages being transmitted all over the world captivated him. He wanted to write a story that would shed light on the miracle of wireless communication. The result is All the Light we Cannot See, one of the most stunning books I have read in a lifetime of reading.

The Best Food Ever Book Club, read The Memory Wall, a few years back.  When the suggestion arose to read  Doerr's latest book, the answer came as a resounding, “Yes.” He is an author for whom we have developed an abiding affection. We were not disappointed by this latest choice. This story found an immediate home in our hearts.

If you want to create a protagonist readers will root for, give them a few vulnerabilities. Blind from the age of five, a little girl lives with her father in Paris, learning to find her way around. War breaks out and they must flee the city. The story is woven between the perils of Marie-Laure's situation which is fraught with anxiety and that of a German orphan, who has been swallowed up by the Hitler Youth.

It is not the story alone that makes the tale so compelling. It is the power of Doerr's prose which has the ability to make a reader stop and think before turning the page.

Marie-Laure ends up hiding in her uncle's house.  War ravages the coastal  town in Britanny and France is occupied.

The following passage puts us right in the house with Marie-Laure, who is frightened and in hiding:
"The distress is so acute, it is almost unbearable. She tries to settle her mind, tries to focus on an image of a candle flame burning at the center of her rib cage, a snail drawn up into the coils of its shell, but her heart bangs in her chest and pulses of fear cycle up her spine, and she is suddenly uncertain whether a sighted person in the foyer can look up the curves of the stairwell and see all the way to the third floor. She remembers her great-uncle said they would need to watch out for the looters, and the air stirs with phantom blurs and rustles, and Marie-Laure imagines charging past the bathroom into the cobwebbed sewing room here on the third floor and hurling herself out the window. 

Boots in the hall. The slide of a dish across the floor as it is kicked. A fireman, a neighbor, some German soldier hunting food?"                                                                                                  P.303

Werner, the German orphan, does not have an easier time of it either.

"Werner folds the map into his coat pocket, packs up the transceivers and carries one in each hand like a pair of suitcases. Tiny snow crystals sift down through the moonlight. Soon the school and its outbuildings look like toys on the white plain below. The moon slips lower, a half-lidded eye, and the dogs stick close to their master, mouths steaming and Werner sweats."                                                P.245

This book was ten years in the making.  The result is stunning, beautiful prose.

"Storms rinse the sky, the beaches, the streets, and a red sun dips into the sea, setting all the west-facing granite in Saint-Malo on fire, and three limousines with wrapped mufflers glide down the rue-de-la-Crosse like wraiths, and a dozen or so German officers, accompanied by men carrying stage lights and movie cameras, climb the steps to the Bastion de la Hollande and stroll the ramparts in the cold."    P.331

This is exactly the kind of book that fills me with enormous awe and respect. It is my idea of a perfect summer read. It is a great subject in the hands of a master. I was dazzled by it.

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