All the Light We Cannot See
I can’t say enough about how much I enjoyed this terrific book set during World War II in the walled coastal city of Saint Malo, France. It’s easy to understand why All the Light We Cannot See won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. It’s a story full of great characters, important themes, and a plot that’s a wonderful mix of reality and fairytale.
Imagine being Marie-Laure LeBlanc, a young blind girl in Paris, whose entire world revolves around her father, Daniel, a trusted locksmith at the city’s Museum of Natural History. He’s built her a miniature model of their neighborhood and is busy teaching her how to find her way. Meanwhile, the threat of German occupation is real, and the museum is rushing to pack up and send off its valuable exhibits and specimens, before they become German property. Among these priceless objects is the Sea of Flames diamond, a legendary stone of mesmerizing beauty, but thought to carry a curse. When Marie-Laure and her father flee France for Saint Malo, he’s carrying a gem, but is it the Sea of Flames or a decoy?
At the same time, Werner Pfennig is a young boy growing up in an orphanage in the coal mining town of Zollverein, Germany. Desperate for a way out of a life destined for the coal mines, Werner discovers a broken radio. He’s instantly fascinated and teaches himself how to fix and build radios. A genius understanding of the math behind transmitting and receiving signals earns him a glowing reputation, but his hopeful future takes a turn when he’s called to fix a radio for a German officer. The officer recruits Werner to be a member of an elite Hitler youth group and he’s sent away to a brutal camp.
Werner becomes an expert in radio transmission, but questions of morality weigh heavy on him, especially when he’s on missions to locate enemy transmissions. When her father has to leave, Marie-Laure feels helpless in her uncle’s house where it’s becoming more and more dangerous. Slowly, these characters develop and find a way to make a difference, but their futures carry sadness as well.
I won’t spoil the story for you, so I will stop here. This is the kind of book you study. It’s full of great quotes, wonderful ideas and serious moral questions. I’m sure I will be reading this again!
I have many favorite parts, and I’ll write about them tomorrow!
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