Anthony Doerr’s Exquisite Novel, All the Light We Cannot See
May 7, 2014
Every so often a book comes along that takes you on a journey of the senses, through scenes so fully evoked they become a part of you, with characters that, by the book’s end, feel more real than your own family. The more novels I read, the more I realize just how rare this sort of book is. Ten years in the writing, Anthony Doerr’s new novel All the Light We Cannot See is at once intimate and generous, historical and magical, thrilling and gorgeous. It is one of those books I savored, the way I do great poetry. Just knowing it would be there for me before I went to bed made my day a little sweeter. Its story took hold of me and wouldn’t let me linger in its beauty. Voracious, I turned the pages.
Set in France and Germany before and during WWII, Doerr’s novel follows a blind girl, Marie-Laure, her father, the master locksmith of the Museum of Natural History, and, in another world, Werner, an orphaned boy who lives with his sister and is enthralled with all things scientific, especially the workings of an old radio. The parallel tales intersect in ways that surprise, delight, and ultimately reveal the power of the human heart in the face of nationalism and war. And at the book’s center shines the mysterious Sea of Flames—a diamond so big and so perfect, it has seemingly mystical powers for which men risk their lives.
One of the perks of being a bookseller is getting to read galleys, and one of the greatest joys is recommending the best of them. And I recommend, with unreserved enthusiasm, Anthony Doerr’s new novel All the Light We Cannot See.