18 April, 2015

All the light we cannot see : a novel by Anthony Doerr [Anita, Blockhouse Bay]

syndetics-lcSet in the 1930's and 40's this novel follows two young people.  Told in brief alternating chapters, the protagonists start far apart, but connections have already been made at the beginning, and you know that their paths will eventually intersect. 

Marie-Laure is blind. She has grown up in Paris and has been raised by her father who is the locksmith for the Museum of Natural History. They flee Paris when the German forces arrive and take refuge with an eccentric great uncle in the city of Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast. There, as he did before, he constructs a detailed model of their neighborhood so she can memorize it with her fingers. After her father goes missing she is drawn into the resistance with her uncle, housekeeper, and a hidden radio. Into the mix is thrown a (cursed?) sapphire, which may be the real thing or a copy, which was entrusted to her father.  A German finds his way to Saint-Malo following it's trail.

Werner is an orphan in a mining town, destined at age 15 to go into the mines that killed his father. He is gifted in science and maths and his ability to understand and repair radios gets him noticed and earns him a place in an elite but brutal Nazi training school. Ultimately he is put in a specialized team to track the Resistance by their use of radio. He travels all over Europe and in 1944 ends up in Saint-Malo. While here the city is bombed by the U.S Air Force and he becomes trapped in the ruins of an hotel.

This is not really a triumph over adversity book, the characters are firmly grounded in the reality of the times. The author deftly describes "the deprived civilian conditions of war-torn France, the strictly controlled lives of the military occupiers".  Werner often has to choose between morality and opportunity. It is the decisions he makes at the end which throw the two together.

A compelling read, the story draws you in and the characters are interesting and sympathetic. The short chapters make it really easy to keep on reading, and the narrative, while long, seems to race past. Cleverly and beautifully written - recommended.

Title: All the light we cannot see : a novel

Author: Anthony Doerr
Publisher: New York : Scribner
Date: 2014
ISBN: 9780007548668

No comments:

Post a Comment

Kia ora! Please feel free to leave your comments or suggestions below.