All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
It's hard to describe this book. It's the story of two people, Marie-Laure and Werner who are only children when WWII starts. Marie-Laure is blind, and lives with her father in Paris. Her father is a master locksmith who works at the national museum and is in charge of all the keys and locks in the museum. He's also a genius at making three dimensional wooden puzzles, and makes a model city for his daughter. Each birthday he presents her with one of his puzzles in which he's hidden her present. She needs to figure out how to open it in order to retrieve her gift. As the Germans approach Paris, he hides what might be a mythic valuable diamond in one of Marie-Laure's houses. They make their way as refugees to St. Malo to a relative's home where he is eventually arrested. Marie-Laure stays with her great uncle for the remainder of the war, until he too is arrested. She is trapped in her uncle's home when the Allies begin the bombardment of St. Malo. Concurrently, Werner is raised in an orphanage in Germany. Because of his mathematical genius, he is sent to an elite training school where he becomes a master at building radio transceivers and transponders. His schooling is cut short when his genius is recognized and he is assigned to a team whose task it is to locate enemy radio broadcasters. The paths of both of these characters eventually cross in St. Malo.
The real story however, is much more philosophical. How does each character respond to light or to the lack of light. Marie-Laure who can see no visible light, is filled with it through her other senses. Werner, whose light is in the beauty of mathematics and radio waves, is blinded by the power of Nazi propaganda and his desire to escape the poverty of his childhood.
The author tells the story through alternating points of view, and alternating past and present. Both characters are sympathetic and compelling. This is a book I will read again.
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