How to put words to this book.
I feel destroyed by this book.
As I read I wanted to read backwards to keep the book going on and on, knowing that if I read forwards I would finish it.
We are introduced to kind-hearted, genius boy Werner and his sister in the orphanage where they live in Germany in the early 1940s and we watch as childhood Reich brainwashing gathers momentum quickly among the young in the community, though Werner is mostly interested in electronics and radio. We observe how the mob mentality effects he and the people in his life and how he is disappointed in himself for being unable to stand up for what is right.
We are also introduced to another motherless young person, a young French girl named Marie-Laure. Her journey into the German occupation of France manages to be lonely as only a blind person can experience such deprivation and confusion.
Several personal personal quests manage to move through the Nazi occupation of France even with hunger and need ever-present for the people in the story.
Yes, that is the loose sketch of the novel, but the story is not this summary. No, it is the exquisite moments that take your breath away. The story is the deep simplicity of scene to scene action. The story is vulnerability vis-a-vis brutality. The story is the concussive explosion reverberating through air that is already full of invisible eddies of fugitive sound waves. It is the cliche'-free telling of a tale too delicate for awkward prose and too insistent for hedging. At once tender and devastating.
This historical fiction story manages to take an agoraphobic, a blind girl, a paleontologist, a gemologist, a botanist, and a baker and create a world that slowly gives presence to the stories of family members who fought in WWII. I began to understand how that war still lived for them. I began to fathom the absolute alchemy that happens when one war becomes one's life. So many lives unspoken.
It has been awhile since I was so moved by a novel. I can compare my reaction to this book to three other books that moved me so: This Side of Brightness: A Novel by Colum McCann, The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, and Prodigal Summer by Barbra Kingsolver. For different reasons, these books profoundly moved me in unexpected ways. I read All the Light We Cannot See on my ereader and I highlighted so many small, exquisite pieces of writing, simply because I had to stop, "stick a thumb in the pages", and pause to feel those words.
And when I got to the breathtakingly subtle climax of the book I had to breathe in and breathe out deliberately, my heart silently weeping, that moment crystalline.
Yes, dramatic as hell and supremely, highly readable.
I give it eight out of ten stars.