All The Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr
“There is only chance in this world, chance and physics.”
This is the third time I am trying to write this. Every time, earlier, when I have put words on the blank sheet eyeballing me, the attempts have been so facile that they were almost offensive to a book that is as delightful. So here goes my one last try.
‘All The Light We Cannot See’ is a story spun skillfully against the backdrop of WWII and the German invasion of France. Marie Laure-LeBlanc is the young daughter of Daniel LeBlanc, a locksmith at Museum of Natural History, Paris. She is blind due to cataract that she got when she was six. Werner Pfennig is an orphan who is a prodigy when it comes to all things ‘radio’. Their lives are stitched together through the convoluted whorls of tragedy, hope, disaster, ill luck, desperation and ingenuity.
Marie’s thirst for knowledge, her daredevilry (Autocorrect vehemently denies knowledge of such a word but it does exist) and Werner’s subtle moral compass bring the story to its climax. The book also explores a father’s love for his child and his desperate attempts to secure her life against war and her blindness.
I couldn’t appreciate enough the writer’s deft handling of a subject as gory and miserable as war. Is it something about Pulitzer winners that the skill with which they tell their stories resemble poetry more than prose? (Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch is a masterpiece) Here is Anthony Doerr describing a bomb blast-
“Doors soar away from their frames. Bricks transmute into powder. Great distending clouds of chalk and earth and granite spout into the sky. All twelve bombers have already turned and climbed and realigned high above the Channel before roof slates blown into the air finish falling into the streets…the fires pool and strut; they flow up the sides of the ramparts like tides; they splash into alleys, over rooftops, through a carpark. Smoke chases dust; ash chases smoke.”
Did I mention there is a diamond, Sea of Flames that has a heart of fire, nestled comfortably in the background of everyone’s life? That diamond – sought after, hidden, protected, hated, costing lives- becomes witness to the reader’s dilemma. It keeps questioning if there are curses in this world and does he/she believe in them?
Anthony Doerr says-
“Maybe the Sea of Flames never existed at all, maybe curses aren’t real, Maybe her father is right: Earth is all magma and continental crust and ocean. Gravity and time. Stones are just stones and rain is just rain and misfortune is just bad luck”.
Do I believe in curses? I trust the justice of the universe. I believe there is chance in this world, chance and the law of karma.