Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Book Review - All the Light We Cannot See

As far as books go, I have begun 2015 with what will probably end up being a strong contender for my favorite book of the year, no matter how many more I read. Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See (Scribner, 2014) is a captivating 530 pages.

Set primarily during World War 2 and the years leading up to it, the book traces the lives of a handful of different people, and is told from each of their varying perspectives. It is a compelling page turner full of well developed characters, and is constructed in a very interesting way. The book is comprised of a multitude of short chapters, generally not more than 2-3 pages each. The chapters bounce from person to person, and jump backwards and forwards on the timeline. Working your way through the story gives glimpses of the climax, the beginnings, and the development of the plot, all intermingled. It is like reading a 500 page puzzle where the pieces are placed for you, one by one, in a seemingly random but actually very calculated manner. While you are given glimpses early on of where things are headed, and it is relatively easy to make certain deductions, it is the unravelling (the journey to get there) that helps to make the book so fascinating.

The characters are compelling and include French civilians (prewar and occupied France), as well as Germans who begin as children in prewar Nazi Germany and end up as soldiers. Eventually all the pieces come together in occupied St Malo, France in 1944. It is about people being molded by the time and place in which they live. About some people taking advantage of war, and others being taken advantage of by it. It's about fear, duty, obligation, perseverance, love, kindness and cruelty.

Brilliant book. Very highly recommended. 5 stars out of 5. A National Book Award finalist for a very good reason.

No comments:

Post a Comment