All the Light We Cannot See is a Pulitzer Book Winner 2015 for fiction aaaand I don’t read Pulitzer books. Well, call me shallow but, I really can’t enjoy Pulitzer books. I think I’m not sensitive enough for that, I am too barbaric, I guess.
Whenever I see Pulitzer books hanging in front of a book store (usually in best sellers shelf), I would just pass them by. But, somehow I am intrigue with this one. It has been on the front shelf of many bookstore for forever and everyone seem to read it, so I thought why not give it a try.
This post contains SPOILERS, by the way.
First of all, if you happen not to know what this book is about, here is the synopsis from goodreads.com :
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.
Praises were flying to the author Anthony Doerr for this piece. I heard that, it took 10 years to finish this book. That alone, deserves a big applause. Kudos to you, Sir.
To be honest I haven’t read any of his books. So, I could not really compare this book to his other works. But, as a stand-alone review, to me this book deserve a 4/5 stars (5/5 stars means that I would read it again. 4/5, I highly doubt it).
I don’t like books about wars, because it is always painful. And it never ends happily, even though peace will be restored eventually. But, the war will always leave scars to the characters somehow. And it never goes away. To me that is like an unfinished business and (to me) stories don’t end with unfinished business. No matter how terrible the ending is, I like it to have some kind of closure. Like every holes has to be filled.
I have to admit the narrative is very beautiful. But, the pace was quite slow and it took almost half the book for me to actually appreciate it. By the way, I spent more than a month finishing this book, while, usually it took two weeks top to finish 300-400 pages book. Then again, this kind of book is not easy for me.
My favorite part is about boiling frogs (what? Haha.) It is written in a chapter titled ‘The Frog Cooks’. Madame Manec, who is Marie-Laure’s great uncle’s house maid, was helping the citizen to spy on the Germans. When she got home from her spying duty, she exhaustedly cooked some potatoes for dinner, while Marie-Laure and her great uncle, Etienne, conversed with her.
Etienne: “Sink any U-boats today? Blow up any German tanks?”
Madame Manec: “Do you know what happen, Etienne, when you drop a frog in pot of boiling water?”
Etienner: “You will tell us, I am sure.”
Madame Manec: “it jumps out. But do you know what happen when you put the frog in a pot of cool water and then slowly bring it to a boil? You know what happens then?”
Madame Manec: “the frog cooks.”
And then some chapters later, a few years after Madame died of sickness, Etienne and Marie-Laure continued her work as part of the spying team. When Etienne tried to break some code given by Marie-Laure from the bakery in a loaf of bread, they reminisced about Madame. Suddenly Etienne commented, “I wonder, who was supposed to be the frog? Her (Madame Manec)? Or the Germans?”
Another favorite of mine is when Werner finally met Marie-Laure. How they spent their brief moment together telling each other stories while gobbling some canned peach was so sweet. I could almost taste the sweetness of the canned peach myself. I feel like the author narrated it so beautifully. Even though, what went on was as simple as that.
But then, they separated after the German lost to the Americans. Werner helps Marie-Laure to escape the city to a safe place. They cannot escape together because Werner is a German soldier and Marie-Laure is a French Citizen. Before that Marie-Laure asked him, “But how will I find you again?”
And Werner said, “I don’t know.”
At that moment my heart broke. I knew what was going to happen next, they will never meet again. And I was right because a few chapters later, Marie-Laure was rescued and reunited with her Etienne and Werner was captured by the Allies and died in a mine field.
After reading that Werner died, I almost didn’t have any push to finish the book. I feel betrayed. Because all the odds where with them all along, but then… Yeah, it is a story about war so what do you expect?
Anyway, by the end of the book, a few years after the war ended, the narration were about how the war scarred Jutta, Werner’s sister, and Marie-Laure. They eventually got a happy life, though. But Werner will always be the hole that cannot be filled.