Friday, August 22, 2014

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

In All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr has written a World War II novel with some elements of the fairy tale: a motherless blind girl whose father has given her a (possibly) magic talisman and an orphan boy with a special gift. Marie-Laure is a French girl living in Paris with her father, a locksmith for the Museum of Natural History. Werner Pfennig is a German boy living with his sister in a home for orphans. Curious and intelligent, he has a gift for building and repairing radios, a rather new technology. Because of this talent, Werner is sent to an elite school which trains elite German soldiers. After the war begins, he travels through Germany and Russia, using radio frequencies to track down pockets of resistance fighters. Meanwhile, Marie-Laure and her father flee the war in Paris to St. Malo, a town on the Atlantic coast. Here they take refuge with Etienne, Marie-Laure’s great uncle. Here they hide a valuable diamond (or a replica) from the Museum, a stone believed by some to have magical powers.  And here, after the American invasion, the two stories briefly cross. Etienne has an illegal radio transmitter for which Werner and his patrol are searching. This leads him to Etienne’s home. Thus, Marie-Laure and Werner both shelter in the house when the American bombing begins. During a lull in the bombardment, the German boy helps the blind French girl run to safety. Then they go their separate ways. The meeting is brief and Werner’s gallantry during the attack does not affect the outcome of the war, or even the battle. However, it will prove to be of great importance to future generations.