Likely Stories - All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Earlier this year I read Anthony Doerr's novel All the Light We Cannot See. I had a copy of it for years and now, I wish I had read it sooner.
This is a historical fiction epic centered around three characters during the Second World War. One of them is Marie-Laure, a young French girl who is totally blind hiding with her uncle, Etienne, in the fortified city of Saint-Malo during the German occupation of France. She is a lover of braille books, an even bigger lover of music, and what she lacks in physical ability, she makes up for in
imagination, and wonder for life. Simultaneously, the novel also follows the story young of Werner Pfennig, a German boy who grows up in an orphanage with his little sister, Jutta. Werner has an impressive knack for technology, and quickly finds himself training in a military compound to become a radio operator during his teen years. Meanwhile, Reinhold von Rumpel, a Nazi officer, is in hot pursuit of an incredibly valuable diamond known as the Sea of Flames, which is said to allow whoever possesses the diamond eternal life, at the cost of a gruesome death for all of the possessor's loved ones.
Although All the Light We Cannot See is only Doerr's second work of fiction, I felt it truly shows how much of a refined, and dare I say genius, artist that he is. The to say the least writing is incredible. Doerr is creative with his use of words, often toying with the definition of those words in a somewhat experimental way.
His style is incredibly sensual in that it engages practically all of the senses of the reader, which is an artistic choice to reflect Marie-Laure's blindness and how she must use all of her other senses to navigate the world. For example, if a character were to walk into a room, the novel would not only describe its dimensions and contents, but also the texture of the walls, the smell of the room, the way footsteps echo off the walls, and very particular and unique details, such as a specific arrangement of seashells on the windowsill, or perhaps a pair of shoes next to the door that are not quite perfectly aligned.
These aspects do make for a rather slow novel, however. At about 530 pages, the very detailed writing style may also cause you to slow down and consume the book at a slower pace than you usually would, which forces you to truly feel and experience everything in the book's environment, as well as all that is in the mind of the characters. I personally enjoy slow-paced works, because they allow me to fully digest and feel everything that is happening.
All this to say, All the Light We Cannot See is without a doubt one of my favorite books of all time, and one which I am certain will become a classic for centuries to come.
Until next time, fellow readers... stay safe, and happy page-turning.