Shortest Book Review: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Occasionally, I read a book or see a movie that blows me out of the water. I especially enjoy this sensation when I was expecting to mildly enjoy the book or film, yet it far exceeded my expectations. I had this exact feeling while reading this book.

Taking place during World War II, the story outlines the lives of two children who become teenagers during the war and are swept along with it.

At this point in time, I don’t really enjoy war stories, especially anything about World War II. But in a sense, the war itself forms more of the backdrop of the novel, and the lives of a German orphan named Werner and a blind girl, Marie-Laure, take center stage.

It many ways this novel is about human connection and those instantaneous connections that can last a lifetime, and indeed, the ways that we are connected to one another, even by the most minor details and occurrences.

Doerr manages to create a very suspenseful narrative, which is well-balanced between action-packed scenes and musings on the interconnections of the world.

And he delights the senses in his descriptions, especially those of Marie-Laure, perhaps due to his very wise choice of a blind girl as a main character, who is more perceptive of the things that others cannot see.

Doerr is also the official king of metaphors, and his descriptions of the world and in particular, the natural world and the life of the cities/countryside/backdrop of the war, are often so stark and contrasting that it makes you think twice, once again, about the connections between things that are so unseemingly intertwined.

In the meantime, I have also finished another book: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.

I really enjoyed the novel and found it entertaining. This is also an extraordinarily suspenseful work of fiction that keeps you guessing – a who-done-it kind of murder mystery.

The only thing I was disappointed in was the inability of the author to render her characters in a more likable manner, which might have been just the point she was trying to make. Her main girl, Rachel, makes a slight transformation throughout the novel from emotionally unstable and crazy to slightly less crazy than before. But there are no heroes – everyone in the novel is depicted in a somewhat unflattering light. It may be my American optimism shining through (and the author is, in fact, British), but I was earning for more substance from her characters, which aren’t much more then deeply flawed.

Despite that detail, I couldn’t put the book down because of all the suspense, and to find out who committed the murder.

On a side note, it looks like a movie based on the book is coming out. I just watched the trailer, and I am actually pretty excited to see the movie. This may possibly be a movie that turns out better than the book – I will have to wait and see!

Currently, I am reading The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, spiritualist guru, although I am keeping my eyes out for my next work of fiction.

On my want list:

The Best American Science and Nature Writing, 2015, edited by Rebecca Skloot

SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome, by Mary Beard

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