I think I asked this question last year after finishing The Narrow Road to the Deep North: when you read a book that seems perfect to you, a book that moves you to tears, and gets you thinking about life and makes you question how you are living it, how do you follow it? What do you read next? What do you sacrifice to the fate of suffering by comparison?
These are the questions I asked myself this morning as I finished All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. At the risk of getting all evangelical about it – it is books like this one that are the reason I would rather be reading. I never wanted it to end, but I also needed desperately to get to the end to know what happened, and so that I could return to normal life.
What an absolutely incredible book – if you haven’t read it already, you need to stop reading my paltry words right this instant and start reading Doerr’s. I give you leave to go.
I’m not even sure I can review it, because there are seriously no words of mine that can do this book the justice it deserves, so I’ll keep it short.
At the centre of the story are Marie Laure, a young, French girl, blind from the age of 6, and Werner, an orphan from Germany who is incredibly gifted with radios and other electronics. When Germany invades France, both characters are thrust into the war, essentially on opposing sides, and their lives are altered irrevocably. That’s all that really needs to be said about the story to be honest – I knew next to nothing about it when I started reading and I think that’s the best way.
Although this is a literary fiction novel, there are parts that are nail-bitingly tense (my destroyed fingernails are proof of this), written better than any thriller I’ve ever read, and there are other parts which read like historical fiction. There is a lot to love about this book, and I think that everyone will find at least one thing to resonate with. But be warned, anything you read after this is going to pale in comparison, so best to have something completely different lined up. I went for Allegiant, and it was the perfect choice – I had low expectations for it anyway, so I wasn’t disappointed.