Read This: All the Light We Cannot See

2015 Pulitzer Winner for Fiction
2015 Pulitzer Winner for Fiction

When I was in the Navy, “Radiomen” who sat in the transmitter room dialed up frequencies, turned the knobs, listened to the static, and locked in. Those out at the Receiver Tower caught the signals from the ships; sender and receiver linked, and the messages were sent.

radio102

On a similar level, that’s what this remarkable historical novel is about–two youths, the transmitter, blind and aware Marie-Laure LeBlanc, who delicately probes her world with a fearless, quiet grace, and the receiver, Werner Pfenning, indoctrinated in the Nazi Youth Program, lost and crippled as he blindly receives the signals surrounding him. Anthony Doerr’s descriptive prose and poetic language carries the reader through the tumultuous years in France when the world was glued to the radio while World War II stripped away families and hope.

It is an easy read and entertaining novel with supporting characters that resonate. I haven’t loved a book in a long time, but this story, I can’t help but think anyone would like it.  However, I was surprised to read a NY Times book review from May 8, 2014 written by William t. Vollmann found HERE and his negative criticism of Doerr’s antagonist, Sergeant Major Reinhold von Rumpel, insinuating he was a cliche, too one-sided to be believed and that Doerr’s writing was lazy at times. I disagree.

When the two children finally meet, the sender and receiver connect, and the ending is satisfying. This is a Pulitzer winner I can cling to with enthusiasm. It is only a matter of time before it is made into a film. What child star could play the heroine Marie-Laure with the care that Anthony Doerr lovingly created in words?

Describing the science behind radios, gemology, and the animal kingdom with clarity and ease, this historical fiction novel is a mesmerizing page turner. 10/10. 

“Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever” (48).

The Shell Collector, Four Seasons in Rome, and About Grace are Doerr’s three earlier novels. I am in a rush to read them. Is there one you recommend? What did you like about All The Light We Cannot See? 

22 thoughts on “Read This: All the Light We Cannot See

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  1. Hi Cindy,

    Nice to see your review here. I love this book, and like how you’ve used the analogy of transmitter and receiver. Doerr’s prose is far from lazy, and I’m surprised that the NYT book review would have said that — I think his prose is luminous and poetic. Very beautiful!
    It’s nice to see you again (I’ve missed some of your posts, I guess).
    I’m the old V-Hynagogic Logic (vijayasundaram.com), Dreamer of Dreams in a new blog: http://magicsurrealist2013.me/
    I hope you’re doing well.
    Peace,
    Vijaya

    1. Welcome back, Vijaya! I hope you have been well; I remember your poetry. I’m glad we agree Doerr’s style of writing is luminous. I would love to write as well as he. Crazy, isn’t it? No matter how great you write, even win the Pulitzer and someone will always find fault. 😉

      1. Thank you, Cindy! I am well, and writing a lot more again. My new blog is still young, but I’m trying to be consistent about writing at least five days a week.
        I agree with you about people always finding fault with — I think it’s a low-level form of envy in this particular NYT reviewer’s case, or, perhaps just his/her ulcers acting up. Who knows!

  2. I waited for months to read this novel–having ordered it from my library, and of course, when it finally arrived, I was neck deep in three others. By the time I began the story, I made it through two chapters and had to hand it in to the 75 other folks waiting to read it. I popped it back onto my list and at the moment I’m number 3. If I fail again, I’m going to have to just purchase the book. And it only makes sense to have a copy of something that so many folks are simply raving about.
    Good to hear you’re one of them, Cindy.

    1. Hi Shelley, oh, I’m glad you’re number 3!. If I buy a book, I’ll buy it used on Amazon. 🙂 Now that I’ve found a new author I love, I’m going to try one of Doerr’s others. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. By definition a critic is a person who has not achieved the level of competence he/she would have liked to reach in life and covers up their frustration by pulling down the work of others. lol. Sounds like a good book.

    1. Ha, ha. What’s that adage? Those that can, do. Those that can’t, teach. Those that can’t do either become critics. I love the relationship between Marie-Laurec and her father. The contrasts, the message–his writing is like an exhale, easy. That’s the mark of a great writer.

  4. I don’t know this writer, and hadn’t heard of the book. However, your enthusiasm and the 10/10 score, have made me feel that it is something I would enjoy reading. It is only £5 as a Kindle edition here, so will be added to my list.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    1. Glad I persuaded you! I don’t think you will be disappointed. Who’d of thought I could care for a character sucked into the Nazi Youth program? He’s from Cleveland, OH. He’s also won 4 O’Henry awards. I, myself, just discovered him.

  5. Hello Cindy!! Sorry I haven’t been back in the swing of things yet but have been busy w/ organizing stuff for the local film fest. THANK YOU for taking us hiking, I had such a blast hanging out with you. I hope you had fun w/ us, too!

    LOVE the cover of this book and the premise intrigues me. Maybe one day I’ll pick it up 😀

  6. Hi Vijaya. I was happy to see your comment here. You may or may not remember me as the manager of Bookcellar Cafe in Cambridge MA, where I invited you and Warren to perform on some occasions. Those were some of the best concerts we presented. I have thought of you and your music often and wish you the best. if you have any recent music available to listen to on the web,I would love to receive links.

  7. Im only 1/10th into it, and it is far superior to The Book Thief, the only other book I have recently read about German children during WWII. The writing alone is to be savored.

    1. Yay! I’m glad you approve. I love the language and the way he creates sense imagery. His description of Marie walking on the beach is fantastic. You’ll know it when you reach it.

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