This month the book club pick was made by me. I picked All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doer. I have been wanting to read this book for a while (since it was one of the best books of 2014) and I decided it would make for a great book club read.
Published Year: 2014
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Summary (Provided by Goodreads): Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.
In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.
I will admit that while I was drawn to the cover (it reminded me of Light Between Oceans) I was not initially super interested in the summary. However, I kept hearing great things about the book and it continued to get amazing reviews throughout all of 2014.
What I thought
This was a beautifully written book and was captivating. I can completely understand why it received so many rave reviews.
All the Light We Cannot See occurs during the late 1930s-mid 1940s during World War 2. It occurs in across France, Germany, and Russia and follows two main storylines. The two main characters are Marie-Laure, a young girl living in France, and Werner, a teenage boy who is a Nazi soldier. The chapters pretty much alternate between their two viewpoints, but there are other characters who have chapters as well. The timeline also alternates between the “current” time of 1944 and the past (starting in the 1930s).
The alternating timeline took me a little while to get used to. The beginning of the book starts right in the middle of the action before you know who anyone is or where anyone is so it’s a bit confusing. I was a little worried that the whole book was going to be like that and that I wouldn’t enjoy the story. However, it quickly goes back to the beginning of the story and begins to make a lot more sense from that point on.
As I said, the writing is beautiful. Marie-Laure is blind and the descriptions during her parts of the story are wonderful. Since she is blind, the author does not use the visual descriptions as heavily with her. He uses a lot of smells and textures and sounds to describe her surroundings and it’s really interesting. I also loved Werner. I loved reading about him exploring his mind and electronics and aspiring to work ith some of the best scientists of his age. It was heart breaking to see he world he was pulled into, but made his story that much more fascinating.
Even though the book is long, I was unable to put it down. I was consistently interested and wanted to know what was going to happen next. At times is did seem a little too long, even though I wouldn’t ever say I was bored. It isn’t a quick read by any means and I think that this was the only downside. Once I got through about ¾ of the book I started to become restless about what was going to happen with these characters and finding out how they were going to end up where they were at the beginning of the book.
I really enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys books that occur during World War 2. Because of the length, I can’t see this being a story that I would re-read and therefore wouldn’t buy it for my shelves.
What Book Club Thought
Everyone loved it! The only issue that some people had was the switching back and forth of the points of views with such short chapters. One of our discussion points was that while the short chapters were great because it made the book feel like it was moving quickly, it made switching between characters a little more difficult. As soon as you were adjusted and within a particular character, it would switch and take a little while to get into the swing of the new character. While it didn’t bother me personally, I can see how this could throw off the flow of the story.
We tried to come up with actors that we would want to play the characters in a movie version but couldn’t think of anyone that fit. None of us had someone that we pictured while we read.
Book Club for January
The Bitch-Proof Suit By: De-ann Black
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Book Club Date: January 16th