All The Light We Cannot See shines through

lightThe problem with getting engrossed in a really good book is that I can’t put it down and life outside the pages of the book comes to a halt. That’s what happened once I got into All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.

The story is told in short, staccatto-style chapters alternating between the lives of blind French teenager, Marie-Laure and gifted German orphan, Werner Pfennig. When Marie-Laure and her father, who is the chief locksmith at the Paris Museum of Natural History evacuate Paris just ahead of the German occupation, they travel to Saint-Malo, the medieval fortress town located on the northwest coast of France to live with a reclusive uncle suffering from “shell shock” suffered in the First World War. At the same time in Germany, Werner Pfennig is sent to a brutal and sadistic military training school for elite Hitler Youth where he is expands his passion for radios, mathematics and physics for the good of The Feuhrer.

For the first part of the book, I felt like I was reading a story written for the young adult market, much like The Book Thief. Then, the characters begin to really take on a life of their own. They’re no longer going through the motions of children living through a horrendous time in history and we become more involved in their inner thoughts, fears, pleasures and pain. There is a sub-plot about a rare diamond being hidden from Nazi looters, but the real story is the intersection of the lives of ordinary people during extraordinary times, how they react and survive, and the impact of those times that remains today.

All The Light We Cannot See was ultimately an amazing read and now that I’ve finished it I can finally get back to my ordinary life of eating, sleeping, grocery shopping and laundry. However, I just heard that Harper Lee’s unpublished sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird which she wrote first, has now been discovered and will be published. I’m embarrassed to confess, I’ve never read To Kill A Mockingbird so I may have to drop out of life again for a short while I get that one under my belt. And I may have to add other Anthony Doerr books to my pile of reading material.

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