All the Light We Cannot See
By Anthony Doerr
Scribner, 2014. 544 pgs. Historical Fiction
This book deserves all the herald and acclaim it has received since it's publication earlier this year. All the Light We Cannot See is a sublime novel, set in WWII primarily in Germany and France as it darts back and forth between the deep interior lives of Marie-Laure, a blind French girl, and Werner, an orphaned boy with a genius for mechanics whose talent is employed at a brutal Hitler Youth school. The novel is structured in a staccato back and forth between these two characters in brief, perfect bites of chapters; and also weaves between two time periods, slowly bringing the characters closer and closer to the point of perfect meeting. There is a subplot of a rare gem, The Sea of Flames, that Marie-Laure's father has been charged with protecting; and a radio program that turns to a resistance tool, both of which serve to unearth both the animal and human in the characters.
Doerr infuses the novel with searching questions about what we all do in extreme situations, and how to interpret the atrocities of war against the background of the antiquity of the earth, without being overt or dogmatic at any point. The characters are so intricately drawn that you feel them at a gut almost visceral level. The writing is so well crafted and perfectly tempered that it completely immerses you and proves a powerful tool to convey deep meaning. This is a book that profoundly moved me, and one I feel I will return to again and again.