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Book Review: ‘All the Light We Cannot See,’ Anthony Doerr

While Hemingway still sits chief on the list of writers Idaho has claimed as their own, not many spots down rests Anthony Doerr. The 41 year-old author lives in Boise with his wife and two children. Prior to 2014 Doerr had published two collections of short stories, a memoir and a novel. All had been well received and earned him modest attention in the literary world.

However in May 2014, Doerr released his second novel “All the Light We Cannot See” which catapulted him to the top of many best-of-the-year lists, earned him a spot as a finalist for the National Book Award and won the hearts of book clubs across the nation.

“All the Light We Cannot See” follows two children through World War II: Marie-Laure, a blind French girl who lives with her father and Werner Pfennig, a German orphan whose brilliance with radios gets him drafted into a Nazi school.

The book opens in France with Marie-Laure and her father. Her father works as the locksmith for the Museum of Natural History in Paris. He is charged with the 900 locks guarding the treasures and, as Paris falls to German control, he is assigned the duty of protecting the large sapphire “The Sea of Flames” and he and he and Marie-Laure flee with the gem to Saint-Malo.

In Germany, Werner fixes the radio of a wealthy German couple. His talent gets him sent to a school where the boys are given elite military training. The chapters detailing Werner’s experience at the school and the cold, brutal training the boys are exposed to are some of the most powerful in the book. They serve to help readers grapple question: How did an entire country fall under Nazi control?

Though Werner and Marie-Laure don’t meet until later in the book, Doerr crafts a great amount of symmetry between their lives. The timelines is non-linear and the book the point of view switches rapidly. However the mastery with which Doerr weaves his narrative leaves the reader with a feeling of felicity.

Doerr’s style is lyrical and his descriptions expansive and dense. His language choices might be more literary than 80 percent of readers are comfortable with. However, Doerr gives readers a break with structure. The chapters are short–many lasting only two to three pages. This allows even a novice reader to digest what they’re reading and have the necessary recovery period.

The story is so compelling you’re sure to keep coming back for more.

About Emily Pehrson (0 Articles)
Emily Pehrson is the current editor-in-chief of The Arbiter. She is junior at Boise State with a double major in English and Communication. When not working or in class, Pehrson can be found watching sports with her brother via Skype. She recently became a very proud first-time aunt and adores showering the baby girl with gifts while insisting that dinosaurs are gender neutral. Follow her on Twitter @EmilyPehrson
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