It took me 3 reading attempts over a 2-year span and a month and a half of reading straight through, but I finally finished All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr at 2 a.m. on a rainy Monday morning. Why did it take me so many times or so long to read it once I finally got going? I’ll explain.
Geez. Why so many times?
I’ll tell you what I tell my husband when he gets irritated at my ginormous reading stack: I have condition called Book ADD. It’s a thing. Trust me. I’ll start a book, and often I’ll see another prettier, shinier book and say to myself, “Let me read that for a second.” And then I have Book ADD with that book. And the next. And the next. It’s actually sort of exhausting, reading a bit of many novels and then becoming so overwhelmed at the stack of ADD books that I abandon them all and start fresh. Compounding my diagnosis is the fact that I’m a slow reader. Le sigh.
Gosh. Why so long?
2 words: The Election. I was well into the novel when The Election happened. Sadness and despair held me up for a good week or two. In actuality, I’m still trying to pry myself away. Anyway, I just couldn’t go back to St. Malo and all its beautiful devastation when I felt desperate in my own life. I needed time to make sense of my new real world before I could plunge into a historical fiction that could–given my new real world–become a reality within the next 4 years.
We read to connect with something, right? We read to make sense of our world. I could write for days about the parallels ALWCS and the state of our nation right now: the uncertainty, the turmoil, the madmen at the helm of ships entering dangerous waters. But I won’t. Somehow saying very little gives me hope that it won’t be true–like saying it out loud might make it real or give it truth. I’m superstitious that way.
But the book, friend. The book is gorgeous. It does its best job at finding the beauty in the ugly, and its best won the Pulitzer. In my wildest dreams, I still can’t craft sentences like Mr. Doerr. Just listen to the master:
“Time is a slippery thing: lose hold of it once, and its string might sail out of your hands forever.”
“So how, children, does the brain, which lives without a spark of light, build for us a world full of light?”
God. Just. Why can’t I?
The characters are just as beautiful and intricate as the language, which is why–you know–Pulitzer! Marie Laure and Werner, Jutta and Papa, Etienne and Frederick, Volkheimer and Madame Manec are surely as real to the reader as the letters on the page. They bring light to a dark world, and thank God for that.
If you enjoy stories with characters who are beautifully flawed, with a mysterious and suspenseful plot over a back drop of Nazi-occupied France during WWII, this is the book for you. You like folklore involving a blue diamond with a flaming red center that will give eternal life to its carrier yet curse others around it? Yep, this book. You fancy miniature model cities (a la Beetlejuice) and radio broadcasts that transmit secret coded messages that were once baked into bread? This book. You desire to read something that matters on a larger scale and helps you understand something new about yourself or your world? This.
Go read this book.