Here is a well-written, sensitive, and powerful novel, recommended to me by a friend, that I really enjoyed reading. The storyline interweaves the lives two unrelated children, one a blind French girl, and the other a scientifically gifted German orphan boy, through the experiences forced upon them by World War II.
Marie-Laure, struck blind as a 6 year old child, lives with her father, a single parent, employed as a locksmith and skilled woodworker by a huge natural history museum in Paris. She struggles to understand the world of darkness she suddenly lives in, and spends her days in the museum with her father and the museum’s other employees. There she begins to develop an interest in snails and mollusks from one of the museum’s scientists.
Young Werner and his younger sister Jutta, both with unusually white hair, grow up living in a small orphanage in a coal mining town in industrial Nazi Germany. Finding the broken remains of a radio, sparks Werner’s intellect and he is able to figure out how it works and fixes it. His extraordinary abilities with electronics eventually enable him to be chosen and sent to a special Nazi school for gifted children. There, while he is reveling in his growing knowledge of radio technology, he slowly begins to see the cruelty of the Nazi government.
Amidst the chaos created when Paris was about to be invaded by Germany, her father and Marie-Laure escape to St Malo on the coast of France, to live with an aging uncle, who still suffers from shell-shock from his First World War experiences. This unexpected move to St. Malo is a disorienting change in Marie-Laure’s life, and the precursor of more negative changes in her life.
From the beginning, the reader cannot help but assume that the lives of these two completely different young people will somehow cross paths. The author skillfully constructs the novel with each very short chapter, slowly developing the characters and the events taking place in their lives because of the war. Doerr, little by little, in each chapter, shows how the war is slowly engulfing their lives.
All the Light We Cannot See was an extremely engulfing novel. It touched all the bases for me and had me fully involved with the characters and their situations.
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