A review of Anthony Dorrr's, All The Light We Cannot See
All The Light We Cannot See
I don't know where to begin. This book is full of plots and twists along with very detailed descriptive narrative. It's easy to see why Anthony Doerr won the Pulitizer. I enjoyed the book, even though I struggled with some of the French and German names.
The story centers around two main characters. Marie-Laure LeBlanc, a young French blind girl, and Werner, a young man who self-taught himself how to fix radios. A talent that changed his life.
Werner, an orphan, lived in a home with his sister Jutta. A Protestant nun ran the household. Radios were the main form of communication in 1934. Werner found a broken one and managed to make it work. They would listen to a Frenchman on the radio in the evenings.Thereafter, he became known in the neighborhood as the 'boy who could fix radios' so people would ask him to fix their broken ones. Eventually, the Germans found out, and they sent him to a German school and, in time, that led to his induction in the German forces.
The sub-plot of the story revolves around a blue stone. The story of the blue stone is introduced in the first chapter telling how a prince accidently found the stone in a river bed. The stone, known as the Sea of Flames is rumored to enable its owner to live forever but misfortunes would fall on all of the owners loved ones. No one knows what happened to the stone until it turned up again in India, and then was transported to Europe. The stone finally made its way to the museum where Marie-Laurie's father works, it was locked up in a vault.
It's impossible to say who the hero was in this complicated book but I think it was Marie-Laure LeBlanc. Marie lived with her father, Monsieur LeBlanc, in France, at the beginning of WWII; she becomes blind but her father has trained her well in how to move throughout the city, even fashioning a miniature of the city out of paper. Marie's father can be credited for making her as self-sufficient as possible by constantly putting something in her hands to feel, and making her study Braille. Her father gives her Around the World in 80 Days and she reads the story over and over. Monsieur LeBlanc is an expert at making wooden boxes that can be tricky to open and he gives Marie-Laure one each year for her birthday. He takes her on walks in the city until she can navigate on her own. Marie-Laure is extremely interested in shells of the sea and snails. Marie-Laure's father is the principal locksmith in the Museum National dHistorie Naturelle. Marie-Laure is familiar with the museum as she goes to work with her father each day.
The war nears and the museum packs up it's valuables. They make three copies of the Sea of Flames stone and send them off with museum employees. No one knows who has the original one. Marie-Laure and her father leave France and find their way to a reclusive uncle where they take up refuge.
Another main character in the book that drives the story is Rumpel, a German officer. Rumpel is dying and he finds out that the Sea of Flames is in the posession of one of the museum's employees. He wants the stone, believing that it will give him everlasting life. Throughout the story Rumpel searches for the stone, finally ending up at the home of Marie-Laure's uncle who by that time had also disappeared fron the home. Marie-Laure's father had been sent away to a prison some time before that.
Werner and Marie-Laure's lives are briefly brought together when she finds herself alone in the attic of the home of her uncle knowing that Rumpel is within the home looking for the stone. Marie-Laure has had enough of hiding and she turns on the radio in the attic and starts reading the book 20 Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.Werner, who has been buried in a collapsed house listens to the broadcast and when he is freed, he searchs for her with his talent for finding people. When he finds out where she is, he breaks into the home, killing Rumpel and saving Marie-Laure. Werner has fallen in love with her but he bravely escorts her to the townspeople who are leaving the city. They make one stop before they part, she asks him to throw the miniature house, containing the stone, in the sea.
Werner doesn't live much longer after that day, he loses his life when he steps on a mine.
Marie-Laure finally finds her uncle again and he sends her to school where she becomes educated in mollusks and creatures of the sea. She has a child. Years later, she meets Werner's sister who brings her the key from the miniature house that had been delivered to her. You leave the story wondering if Werner went back and got the stone or why he ended up with the key in his posession.