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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Reading Rapture

Had I read the back cover blurbs on "All The Light We Cannot See" before finishing it, it's possible my impression of Anthony Doerr's remarkable 2014 novel could have been unduly influenced. This is especially so in this case because I've enjoyed each of the authors who justifiably praised Doerr's panoramic yet intimate book. I've even written a blog post about all four blurbers - Abraham Verghese ("Cutting For Stone"), J.R. Moehringer ("The Tender Bar"), Jess Walter ("Beautiful Ruins") and M.L. Stedman ("The Light Between Oceans").

But I'm pleased to have not noticed the glowing words of that talented group until after "All The Light We Cannot See" utterly transported me; I arrived at my reading rapture honestly. Though I have a reasonably good attention span, it's not unusual for me to fall out of the spell a few times in novels exceeding 500 pages, no matter how rich. This book had me beginning to end. The sweep of the tale is thrilling, the prose is gorgeous, the architecture Doerr constructed is startling but accessible - a peak reading experience.

And the two main characters - a young French girl named Marie Laure and Werner, a German soldier around the same age - are perfectly realized. Though they don't know each other, their lives magically intersect throughout the book. As their only meeting, WWII and the novel draw to a close, Doerr's mastery is on full display; his command of this material is stunning. Please let me know if you read this book. Discussing it with a discerning reader is the best way I know to extend my reading rapture.


  1. Pat, I could never outdo you in a book review. You are quite the master. I agree with every point you made about "The Light We Cannot See" and I hope your readers will consider the following points as well. This novel, although lengthy, is easy to pick up and put down because of its short, defined chapters. Each one is a finely polished jewel. The two chapters on pages 466-468 are so suspenseful and moving. Werner is about to discover Marie in the wardrobe. Her terror is unbearable for the reader.
    Later follows this exchange- Marie: "When I lost my sight, Werner, people said I was brave. When my father left, people said I was brave. But it is not bravery, I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don't you do the same?" Werner deals with that problem in a different way than his unfortunate friend Frederick did. Please give this novel a try. Yes, war is the backdrop, but the resilience of the human spirit "rises again in the grass, in the flowers, in songs." Time with this moving story will be time well spent.

  2. Hi Pat. I too read and enjoyed this book. Would be happy to discuss when we are next at the library. Ines

  3. I agree wholeheartedly, Pat. It inspired me to read 20,000 Leagues: Why did the author chose that for Marie's only book? I still don't know but I really enjoyed this very trippy book and the enigmatic Nemo.

  4. How wonderful that my post on this magical book generated these comments. Thanks. And Ines- I'll look forward to our conversation.