Book Review – All the light we cannot see

This was the other book that I had bought just before our trip to Laos. The author, Anthony Doerr won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for this book and after reading it, its well deserved.

The story is set during the World War II and its about Marie Laure, a French girl who has been blind since the age of six and Werner, a German orphan. Its fascinating to read about how Werner “discovers” radio and is an engineering whiz even though his circumstances are so sparse. War brings these two young people in contact, but this is not a “happily-ever-after” kind of novel. Its harsh, as reality often is. A cursed diamond, a father whose fate is unknown, love blooming in an orphan’s heart and then his getting blown off because he strays onto a landmine…. after the war ends. Harsh? Yes, true. The way the German army recruited and trained its cadets is described in detail and its again heart wrenching to see Frederick, the young man who knows everything about birds being beaten up so badly that he is reduced to a vegetative state. Its also difficult to read the passages that talk about how Werner does not stand up to those bullies who torture his best friend Frederick, just due to fear of the consequences… and you can feel the guilt he is feeling.

Some fascinating statements and facts that I underlined are –

A young Werner asks his house mother at the orphanage – “Can deaf people hear their heartbeat?” I don’t know the answer. I have to still google it.

Fact – Fritz Haber, inventor of fertilizer; Hermann Staudinger, inventor of plastics (… ahhhh, it hurts). Hertz, who made the invisible visible all were Berliners.

“Walk the paths of logic. Every outcome has its cause, and every predicament has its solution. Every lock its key.” Yep, true.

“The entropy of a closed system never decreases. Every process must by law decay.” hmmm …

“Time is a slippery thing: lose hold of it once, and its string might sail out of your hands forever.” You bet!

The saddest statement – “But it is not bravery; I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don’t you do the same?” … this is said by Marie Laure to Werner when they meet and are chatting.

This is a beautifully written book. A long read but a must read. Again, there is a lot of detailed information about shells, molluscs and snails etc. The backdrop of the museum where Marie-Laure’s father works is used very well. There are life lessons hidden all over the book … and yes the ugly face of any war also is described vividly.


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