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Review: All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr

HERB JOHNSON – GAZETTE CONTRIBUTOR
It could be argued that the invisible light referred to in the title refers to the love and kindness that manages to endure in a world filled with cruelty and chaos. Or it might refer to something else entirely.
A book that has won the Pulitzer Prize is bound to be more complex than your average romance novel. But there is definitely a thread of kindness that runs through a book that is set almost entirely during World War Two.
The connection between young Marie-Laure, blind since the age of six, and Werner, a child prodigy when it comes to building radios, is tenuous. They don’t actually meet until near the end of the novel. Marie-Laure is French and is forced to use her wits just to survive during the Nazi occupation. Werner grows up to be a German soldier given the task of using his skills to track down radio broadcasts that are aiding the French Resistance.
The book travels back and forth through time and Werner’s work is done against a background that includes listening, with his sister Jutta, to a series of mysterious broadcasts of wonderful stories that come and go and enthrall the two youngsters. Fast forward through time and it turns out the broadcasts originate with Marie-Laure’s reclusive great uncle, who lives in a tall house near the sea in St. Malo. Will Werner use his skills to switch from tracking enemy messages to finding the source of the wonderful stories?
Another thread through the entire book is a rare and very valuable gemstone that may or may not be cursed. It has resided in the museum where Marie-Laure’s father works and when the German army invades France, two copies of the stone are made and all three are given to individuals to guard. None of the three men so entrusted knows whether his is the fake or the real one.
This is a complex book and many bad things happen. There is a war on, after all. But something that is not obvious is at work and it could be argued that if one is adding up the totals of good and evil, good just might be coming out on top.

1 Comments For This Post

  1. linda ellis Says:

    Read it.
    Recommended it to friends.
    A thought provoking and moving book