All The Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr

Shelf Indulgence

This Shelf Indulgence review covers one of my favourite books of the last ten years.  Doerr’s Pulitzer prize-winner tells the story of a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both are swept up in the devastation of World War II. Marie-Laure lives a secluded life with her father, locksmith to the Paris Museum of Natural History. When she loses her sight, her papa builds a perfect miniature of their neighbourhood – a kind of 3D map – and she learns every street by touch. As the Nazis approach Paris, and they flee to seek refuge in Saint-Malo with her reclusive great-uncle, Marie-Laure is unaware that they are carrying the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel. But when her father disappears, she unwittingly becomes its custodian. Marie-Laure is a wonderful creation: the wise and courageous blind girl who sees the world with far greater perception than many of the sighted who pity her.

In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner, a genius with electronics, is inducted into, and miraculously survives, the brutal Schulpforta academy. At just sixteen, he is sent on special assignment to track the resistance across the continent, finally reaching Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.

All The Light We Cannot See is one of those seductive books you don’t want to finish. Which is perhaps an odd thing to say about a novel that reminds us of the horrors of World War. But Doerr’s use of language, though spare, is shot through with exquisite images. And when Marie-Laure marvels at the beauty of a seashell, or the boy stands by the sea for the first time, we too are invited to see the world afresh.

Buy All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

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