Lines & Literature | All the Light We Cannot See
What I've been reading (off-line, that is):
This book is a new favorite.
I was reading All the Light We Cannot See when my sister arrived two weeks ago. As she jumped out of the car, the same book was clutched in her hand, only a little less read than mine. For the first two days of her summer-long visit, we sat side-by-side drinking iced teas and each reading this tale of blind little Marie-Laure LeBlanc.
In a story about childhood interrupted by War, All the Light We Cannot See is utterly captivating. The novel weaves together two tales: the first about Parisian Marie-Laure who has been blind since she was six years old, and the second, about a German orphan called Werner who finds himself at the center of the Hitler Youth. Written with equal parts sensitivity and sympathy, the book alternates between the too young characters, each one forced down a path by their personal circumstances and by the destructive monster of war.
“To shut your eyes is to guess nothing of blindness. Beneath your world of skies and faces and buildings exists a rawer and older world, a place where surface planes disintegrate and sounds ribbon in shoals through the air. Marie-Laure can sit in an attic high above the street and hear lilies rustling in marshes two miles away. She hears Americans scurry across farm fields, directing their huge cannons at the smoke of Saint-Malo; she hears families sniffling around hurricane lamps in cellars, crows hopping from pile to pile, flies landing on corpses in ditches; she hears the tamarinds shiver and the jays shriek and the dune grass burn; she feels the great granite fist, sunk deep into the earth’s crust, on which Saint-Malo sits, and the ocean teething at it from all four sides, and the outer islands holding steady against the swirling tides; she hears cows drink from stone troughs and dolphins rise through the green water of the Channel; she hears the bones of dead whales stir five leagues below, their marrow offering a century of food for cities of creatures who will live their whole lives and never once see a photon sent from the sun. She hears her snails in the grotto drag their bodies over the rocks.”
Doerr has built this tale on beautiful imagery, both in the literal sense and the metaphorical. His prose is woven with scientific and philosophical references to light, to seeing and not seeing, and the differences between the two. It is about both humanity and about being humane.
All the Light We Cannot See is not quite on par with The History of Love in my book (though it is very close). Still, it is hauntingly beautiful. While reading, I wanted to slow down and savor the story, yet I rushed through, page after page, wanting to understand the ending (yet not wanting to reach it, not wanting it to be over). After begrudgingly returning my copy to the library last Wednesday, I drove to Barnes & Noble and purchased a copy all my own. You won't regret doing the same.