Author: Anthony Doerr
Title: All the Light We Cannot See
Narrator: Zach Appelman
Publication Info: Simon & Schuster Audio (2014)
This novel set in World War II and the years immediately preceding the war focus on the parallel lives of two individuals. Marie-Laure LeBlanc, who loses her vision as a child, evacuates from Paris to her shell-shocked uncle’s house in Saint-Malo once the war begins. Werner Pfennig is a German orphan in the country’s mining region who learns to repair radios and whose talent with circuitry earns him a spot in an elite but draconian Nazi training school.
Marie-Laure eventually ends up helping her uncle broadcast messages to the French Resistance using a secret transmitter, while Werner ends up working in a military unit that tracks illegal radio transmissions and shuts them down. Their paths are obviously set to converge from the earliest pages of the book, and when they do it is a wonderful and unexpected encounter. There’s also a story about a precious gem intertwined with their stories, but it seems a bit of a macguffin to me.
This is a wonderful novel that illustrates very personal stories of war, and especially the effect of war on limiting the options of children and forcing them to make choices they’d not otherwise be ready to make. The characters, even the minor characters, are very well-developed and I enjoyed spending time with them. It’s a beautiful book and likely to make one cry a little bit.
Recommended books: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, and The Book of Everything by Guus Kuijer