All The Light We Cannot See

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Duerr. (Reviewed 14 June 2018)

This was a book that was well-received, with a rating of 4 out of 5 being the most common score. As the book took ten years to write it might explain the 500-plus pages, which some found too long. Also, the non-chronological sequencing and the short chapters did not receive total acclaim. A recommended read, though.

The review in the Guardian said. “This novel will be a piece of luck for anyone with a long plane journey or beach holiday ahead. The story is set in Germany and France before and during the German occupation of France. Marie-Laure is a little blind French girl, motherless. Werner Pfennig and his sister Jutta are orphans in the German mining town of Zollverein, near Essen. He is a boy with a gift for science, and the intricacies of radios in particular. He can fix anything.

Werner's talent brings him to the attention of the Nazis. Marie-Laure and her father escape Paris in 1940, and take refuge in Saint Malo, on the coast of Brittany. Werner's genius is put to work tracking radio transmissions, until he is sent to Saint-Malo, where Marie Laure's great uncle Etienne uses his radio transmitter on behalf of the Resistance.

Unfortunately, Doerr's prose style is high-pitched, operatic, relentless. Short sharp sentences, echoing the static of the radios, make the first hundred pages very tiresome to read.

Nevertheless, often Doerr rises again as, entranced with the story he is telling, he lets the overwriting slip away. And his attention to detail is magnificent. Always you want to know what happens next to Marie-Laure, to her father, her great-uncle Etienne, to Werner and Jutta, and to his considerable parade of other characters.” Unquote.