All The Light We Cannot See

all-the-light-we-cannot-see-9781476746586_hrguarantee-badgeOh!!!! What a book!! Full marks from us all around the Christmas table back in December. I am a month late blogging so HUGE apologies!! Here is what I started writing the night of our last 2016 Book Club meeting and that is followed with an update!!

Oh! Such a lovely evening!! We had a great Christmas Book Club Christmas night tonight! Great food at The Brit in Cwmavon but better company and a wonderful discussion about a brilliantly , beautifully written book ‘All at the Light We Cannot See’!  Unfortunately 50% of us hadn’t finished the book for ashamedly, no real reason, but we can all agree that this is a brilliant book and I would say, one of the best we have chosen to read in Book Club history! Please treat yourself and read it!

The evening flew by with great food from the evening menu, plenty of delicious wine, and a fun Book Club quiz (which I am so pleased to say ended in a draw) . We also had a bit of fun exchanging Christmas book-wrapped pressies. Great choices of books, by the way! Not forgetting Cor Afan singing in the background. We enjoyed so much that we forgot to choose a book for January so our New Year meeting will be a social get together where we will choose our next book!

christams-5   christmas-3           christmas-6     christmas-8joan             christmas-4

Back to the present. I have to admit that I was one of the 50% who hadn’t finished reading the book but now, a month later I am happy to say that I have sadly come to thinned of the book. Sadly because I didn’t want it out of my life. I prolonged the reading of this elegant and provocative prose for as long as I could but now it’s over and I have moved on! What kept me hooked to the book more than anything was the portrayal of the lives of Marie Laure and Werner. Getting to know them in their very different worlds is a treat to savour as we wait for the crossing of their lives with each other, which, when they finally do, is not what you will be expecting. It is much better, much more bittersweet and unexpected.

You are drawn into this book by the beautifully written pages. You are in an orphanage listening to the radio. You are walking the streets of St. Malo with heightened senses of all that surrounds you. You feel enriched by the imagery Doerr creates, with the heightened meaning and with the depth of feeling that oozes out of the very short chapters.

Take a look at this video where the author Anthony Doerr, explains to us where the three pieces of inspiration that provided the superstructure for the novel came from. The first being on  NYC subway with a fellow passenger moaning about the loss of his mobile phone signal.

‘At the start of the book I wanted to try to capture the magic of hearing the voice of a stranger in a little device in your home because for the history of humanity, that was a strange thing. I started with a boy trapped somewhere and a girl reading a story.’

A year later he was on a book tour in France and saw Saint Malo for the first time.

‘Walking around this beautiful seaside town, a walled fortress, the beautiful channel, the green water of the channel breaking against the walls and I told my editor, “look how old this is. This medieval town’s so pretty.” He said, “actually, this town was almost entirely destroyed in 1944, by your country, by American bombs.” So I started researching a lot about the city of Saint Malo immediately and knew that was the setting. That was where the boy would be trapped, listening to the radio.’

The third piece Doerr  explains is when he learned that when the Germans invaded, the French hid not only their artistic treasures but their important natural history and gemological holdings, too.

Read the book. It’s wonderful.



One thought on “All The Light We Cannot See

  1. All the Light We Cannot See

    This is another book that gave me a huge surprise. They say not to judge a book by the cover (which can be massively difficult as a bibliophile) but I think an equally useful life lesson would be “don’t judge a book by the synopsis”. The back cover for this book felt twee and made my eyes roll hard. It sounded like it concerned a blind French girl and German soldier who fall in love during World War II and about how their love bridged the distance between them and so on and so on. Enough to make you feel a bit sick. It turns out that this synopsis is not particularly accurate and paints the book as a romantic farce. The truth is much deeper.
    The female protagonist, Marie-Laure, actually turns out to be a wonderful character and her blindness allows her to see things differently than others. The male protagonist, Werner, has an even more interesting story (to me personally) due to his decline in belief, from someone inspired by science to someone who realises the dangers and horrors it can create. As well as this, one of Werner’s friends has the most interesting storyline in the book. As heartbreaking as it is riveting, Frederick’s story made me vastly more empathetic than I expected to be. As interesting as the two main characters are, I was hoping that a two-protagonist system was not being used for no reason. I was relieved in this regard. Although both stories are fascinating on their own, the way they entwine really made the last section of the book a wondrous thing.
    Many novels are set in historical periods simply to be a backdrop but I felt that many of the story elements fit the setting perfectly. Antagonist Major von Rumpel seemed to represent the laughably idiotic but incredibly dangerous occult divisions that Hitler himself created. A character who is strong-willed and truly believes in a doctrine often makes a worthy adversary. As well as this, the setting means that the sub-plots about the radio stations and their legality were exciting and fraught with tension.
    In many ways, this novel reminds me of another great piece of historical fiction, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Both are World War II epics set in Europe and both are stories of love, hardship and mortality. But even though The Book Thief is far more well known, All the Light We Cannot See is the better read. I’m willing to admit when i’m wrong!

    5 out of 5.


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