So how, children, does the brain, which lives without a spark of light, build for us a world full of light?”
–Anthony Doerr, All the Light we Cannot See
World War 2 has been one of the most written about topics. Over the years, we have seen a lot of books, movies and documentaries about it, each more intriguing than the previous. It was a dark moment in our history, and it is obvious why all of us can’t stop reading about it. Just when we thought that we have read it all, fiction and non-fiction, we were proven wrong. In 2014, Anthony Doerr released his “All the Light we cannot see”. This book highlighted how both the sides tried to survive the devastations of the war.It went on to become New York Times Bestseller, and even won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2015.
This book talks about the war, but not just in the way you think. Often times, literature about World War II focuses on its soldiers and leaders. Seldom it is when a book talks about its impact on the common folk. The book shifts between two points of views, one of a blind French girl trying to escape from occupied France, and another of a German boy, who gets recruited at an extremely young age. For Marie-Laure, blind since the age of 6, life hasn’t been easy, with her father as her only support.For Werner, an orphan, initially destined to labour in the mines, life takes a turn when he fixes an old broken radio, and tunes into a a radio show by a Frenchman who awakens a life long interest for science in him. Doerr’s impeccable vocabulary, and the smooth transition from Marie’s life to that of Werners makes it completely worth it to read the book.
We all know what a difficult time that was. However , after reading about the many trials and tribulations they both had to face at extremely young ages, we come to realise exactly how cruel it was. How it stopped at nothing to take away every possible shred of happiness they possessed. Another theme constantly highlighted throughout the book is family. Both of them eventually lose all their family. This was a detail which couldn’t have been overlooked, as it was crucial to prove to the reader how innocents will always suffer when two sides fight. Doerr perfectly managed to capture the desperation one feels when losing their family, with the incapability of being able to do anything. It tugs at one’s emotional heartstrings, and definitely does the fail to provoke a tear or two.
Doerr’s hauntingly beautiful description of events not only helps you visualise the scene, but also feel the emotions the characters were going through. When Werner wins a spot into the Hitler Youth Academy, his only escape from a life in the coal mines, you can visualise exactly how he must have been feeling, being presented with two options for his future, neither of them better than the other. Both these options will lead to his separation with his only family alive, his sister. You can sense his inner turmoil at this very moment. This book is also a great read for those fond of science. Every page in this 634-page work of art is bewitching. This is one book you won’t be able to put down.