All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
So many books about the Nazi occupation easily come across as haunting, lyrical, poignant. It's a staple of the genre. And while All the Light We Cannot See mastered those elements, there was one major difference between this book and most stories you read about every day people trying to survive WWII. This was the first story that inspired empathy in me for a member of the Nazi party. I admittedly have never given much thought to the actual people behind the swastika... outside of the Big Bads like Hitler and Goebbels. But there were clearly victims of the Nazi party that also happened to be members... people who had no options or alternatives, forced into service as a means of survival. In this book, we see the intersection of two lives and the various ways they are victims of the Führer and his regime. This book blurred the equal sign in my Nazis = Bad mentality. The Nazi party itself was a heinous, evil organization. However, just like in every group of people, there was more to the story of the individuals involved.
On top of being a fantastic story of stamina and the strength of the human spirit, this book was so gorgeously written... so much so that I found myself rereading certain passages because they just sounded so beautiful. And it reminded me (as Marie-Laure and Werner were constantly reminded) that there is always beauty to behold in even the ugliest of circumstances. And this fact is sometimes the only thing that keeps us going when there seems no other reason to endure.
WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE
From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the beautiful, stunningly ambitious instant "New York Times" bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II. Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure's reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum's most valuable and dangerous jewel.
In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure's converge.
Doerr's "stunning sense of physical detail and gorgeous metaphors" ("San Francisco Chronicle") are dazzling. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, he illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another. Ten years in the writing, a National Book Award finalist, "All the Light We Cannot See" is a magnificent, deeply moving novel from a writer "whose sentences never fail to thrill" ("Los Angeles Times").