From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, a stunningly ambitious and beautiful novel about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.
Marie Laure lives with her father in Paris within walking distance of the Museum of Natural History where he works as the master of the locks (there are thousands of locks in the museum). When she is six, she goes blind, and her father builds her a model of their neighborhood, every house, every manhole, so she can memorize it with her fingers and navigate the real streets with her feet and cane. When the Germans occupy Paris, father and daughter flee to Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast, where Marie-Laure's agoraphobic great uncle lives in a tall, narrow house by the sea wall.
In another world in Germany, an orphan boy, Werner, grows up with his younger sister, Jutta, both enchanted by a crude radio Werner finds. He becomes a master at building and fixing radios, a talent that wins him a place at an elite and brutal military academy and, ultimately, makes him a highly specialized tracker of the Resistance. Werner travels through the heart of Hitler Youth to the far-flung outskirts of Russia, and finally into Saint-Malo, where his path converges with Marie-Laure.
Doerr's gorgeous combination of soaring imagination with observation is electric. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another. Ten years in the writing, All the Light We Cannot See is his most ambitious and dazzling work.
7 August 1944
At dusk they pour from the sky. They blow across the ramparts, turn cartwheels over rooftops, flutter into the ravines between houses. Entire streets swirl with them, flashing white against the cobbles. Urgent message to the inhabitants of this town, they say. Depart immediately to open country.
The tide climbs. The moon hangs small and yellow and gibbous. On the rooftops of beachfront hotels to the east, and in the gardens behind them, a half-dozen American artillery units drop incendiary rounds into the mouths of mortars.
They cross the Channel at midnight. There are twelve and they are named for songs: Stardust and Stormy Weather and In the Mood and Pistol-Packin' Mama. The sea glides along far below, spattered with the countless chevrons of whitecaps. Soon enough, the navigators can discern the low moonlit lumps of islands ranged along the horizon.
Intercoms crackle. Deliberately, almost lazily, the bombers shed ...
It took ten years to write this book. Meticulously researched, Doerr recreates the most intimate details of his characters’ worlds. The novel stands as a crash course in physics and math, radio communications, birds, the physiology and psychology of blindness, the anatomy of mollusks, and the education of Hitler Youth’s elite. Despite these excursions, the writing never seems forced, self-conscious, or pedantic. Rather, the knowledge is integrated into scenes, as necessary and natural as the description of a lock of hair, an article of clothing. With devastating prose, All the Light We Cannot See explores the human consequences of war and the lethal choices we must make when held in its grip.
(Reviewed by Naomi Benaron).
Full Review (1227 words).
History of Saint Malo
The siege and subsequent burning of Saint Malo during World War II is intrinsically bound to the island's history. Saint Malo is a scenic and historic port city nestled in the crook of Brittany's arm on the North coast of France. According to "St-Malo an independent travel guide," Saint Malo was founded in the 1st century BCE, a short distance to the south of the current city. Coveted for its strategic location at the mouth of the Rance River, the town was first fortified by Celtic tribesmen and later by the Romans. In the sixth century, Celtic Bishop, Maclou or MacLow, who was later canonized as Saint Malo, co-founded a monastic order on the rocky island that would later take his name. In the twelfth ...
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