What I’ve been reading…

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All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr

I read this, only after my husband banged on about it and endlessly asked when I was going to make a start. I’d wanted to read something light-hearted after my recent spate of challenging and emotionally draining books, but I gave in – mainly to shut him up f I’m honest….and I’m so pleased I did.

Probably my personal choice for my book of the year, even though I’m late to the party as this was first published 2 years ago.  Cleverly crafted to tell the story between the two main characters, and how their lives intertwine during WWII, All the Light We Cannot See is most definitely a page turner. Both characters face phenomenal hardship. Marie-Laure is being brought up in Paris by her protective and ingenious locksmith father as she faces her recent blindness. As Germany invades France, they flee Paris for Saint Malo, where Marie-Laure’s Great Uncle lives with his fesity housekeeper Madam Manec. Marie-Laure’s father carrying an invaluable diamond which brings trouble to his door. Werner, meantime, is growing up an orphan in care, with his younger sister, in a mining town in Germany. He’s clever, and desperate to leave the inevitable path towards working in the mines which killed his father. Cue the apparent opportunities for him of Hitler Youth in the emerging Third Reich…

I really don’t want to give away any more than this as the story takes many twists and turns. The characterisation of all the main players is beguiling. You feel like you know all of them intimately, their flaws and their motivations. My heart broke for both Marie-Laure and Werner in equal measure. Werner, just a kid, thrust first into the brutal and immoral academy for the German military elite, and then into the full vileness of war, whilst Marie-Laure faces challenges which would floor most of us, let alone in the midsts of living in France during WWII.

The brutality of the war is tangible, but so is the tenderness and fragility of the characters. There are some dubious coincidences, but they weren’t as head slammingly obvious as I feared were coming in a few places, narrowly avoiding a couple of cliches which he could so easily have fallen in to. I felt genuine tension and fear during some of the the risks taken by Madam Manec and her friends, their extraodinary efforts as part of the Resistance.

All in all a brilliant book. I will never forget Werner, nor Marie-Laure, nor her Great Uncle Etienne, Frederick and Jutta. And I’ll always remember the unstoppable Madam Manec…

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