All The Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr

Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.

While this is the first book I’ve finished in 2016, I read the first 483 pages in 2015. I started it in the bath on Boxing Day, in the bathroom in the loft at my auntie’s house, tucked under the eaves, reading by the low light of the spotlights in the alcove by the bath. I listened to the aeroplanes overhead as I read about people hiding during bombings. I was so enthralled that I stayed in there for two hours, emerging after around 150 pages (the print is tiny), quite cold and rather dazed.

All The Light We Cannot See first caught my eye back in the early summer, when it was still in hardback. As it’s so long, it was a big book, so I decided to wait until it was in paperback, and try it then, though I almost caved a few times in the following months. We got a copy for the library a couple of weeks before Christmas, so I brought it home for the holidays.

Set in France and Germany in the 1930s and 1940s, it follows two main characters, Werner, a German boy with a talent for fixing radios, and Marie-Laure, the French daughter of a locksmith with a love for nature, who went fully blind at the age of six. While Werner learns mathematics and engineering, Marie-Laure learns how to navigate the world around her. It is a truly beautiful book, with so much underlying and unknown. There is also the small matter of a diamond worth as much as five Eiffel Towers, which may or may not be cursed. The portrayals of mental illness, of trauma, of tragedy, of desperation, are relatable and real. The magic of radio and of stories, of the world we live in, especially the wonder of these things when viewed through the eyes of children, is gorgeous.

I bought a copy of this for a friend before I even finished it, and I expect I’ll buy more copies of it before long. I want everyone to read it and to love it like I did, to root for these two unlucky children, to stay with them like I predict it will stay with me.

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