Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Book Review-All the Light we Cannot See

World War II provides a rich ground for historical fiction. The recently named Pulitzer Prize for Fiction winner is a case in point. Anthony Doerr, in All the Light We Cannot See, looks at the war from both the German and French sides as ordinary people get caught up in the conflict.
On the German side we have the orphans Werner and Jutta. Werner loves working with radios and becomes the fix-it guy for his whole neighborhood by the time he is 12. He and his sister Jutta listen to radio broadcasts from all over Europe, but their favorite is from France. They listen to a Frenchman explaining science to children as often as they can. They live in a mining town and the only future that Werner can see for himself is going into the mines, like his father before him (who was killed in a mining accident.) When Werner sees a way out by going to a Nazi training school he jumps at the chance to learn engineering. Jutta, although younger, has been paying more attention to the Nazi propaganda and doesn't want Werner to go.
On the French side is Marie-Laure who started to go blind when she was six. Her father, a locksmith at the museum, creates a 3-d model of their neighborhood out of wood so she can learn her way around. He also devises puzzle boxes for her as birthday gifts. She goes to the museum with him and learns about shells and mollusks. She learns about a great jewel that has a curse attached. As the Nazis approach Paris the museum has copies made of the jewel and sends it and the copies out into France to protect it. Marie-Laure's father is one of the carriers. They end up in Saint Malo, where Marie-Laure's grandfather and great uncle grew up.
The book is told in short, alternating chapters, starting around 1934 but sometimes jumping forward to 1944-1945. Each person's story is intersting and well told and how they come together is very well done.
I liked it because of the detail that went into each character's story and how the story built in tension. It was sad, but how could it not be considering the setting. Even though it was about war and the effects of war on ordinary people, it was somehow gentle, too. A very good book.

All the Light We Cannot See
All the Light We Cannot See
By Doerr, Anthony
2014-05 - Scribner Book Company
9781476746586 Check Our Catalog
ALA Notable Books (2015), Alex Awards (2015), Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence (2015), Colorado Blue Spruce Award (2016), Indies Choice Book Awards (2015), National Book Awards (2014), Pulitzer Prize (2015)

From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, a stunningly ambitious and beautiful novel about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II. …More

Complimentary Reads
Sarah's Key
Sarah's Key
By De Rosnay, Tatiana
2011-10 - St. Martin's Press
9781250004215 Check Our Catalog
With more than two million copies sold, de Rosnay's debut novel has found its way into the hearts and minds of readers everywhere. Now with this beautifully designed hardcover edition complete with red ribbon, linen stock jacket with cloth binding, gold foil, and embossing, the gift of powerful storytelling can be shared at the holidays. 384 pp. 200,000 print. …More

Life After Life
Life After Life
By Atkinson, Kate
2014-01 - Back Bay Books
9780316176491 Check Our Catalog
In 1910, Ursula Todd is born to an English banker and his wife. She dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, and embarks upon a life that will be unusual. Does Ursula's infinite number of lives give her the power to save the world from its inevitable destiny? …More

The Book Thief
The Book Thief
By Zusak, Markus
2006-03 - Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
9780375831003 Check Our Catalog
Book Sense Book of the Year Award (2007), Capitol Choices: Noteworthy Books for Children and Teens (2007), Cybils (2006), Garden State Teen Book Award (2009), Georgia Peach Book Award for Teen Readers (2008), Heartland Award (2008), Iowa High School Book Award (2010), Michael L. Printz Award (2007), National Jewish Book Award (2006), Parents Choice Award (Spring) (1998-2007) (2006), Quill Awards (2006), Rhode Island Teen Book Award (2008), Sydney Taylor Book Award (2007), Tayshas Reading (2008), Virginia Readers Choice Award (2008), Young Reader's Choice Award (2009)

2007 Virginia Readers' Choice
BookPage Notable Title
Set during World War II in Germany, Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich, scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids. This is an unforgettable story

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
By Shaffer, Mary Ann
Author Barrows, Annie
2008-07 - Dial Press
9780385340991 Check Our Catalog
Indies Choice Book Awards (2009)

London, 1946: writer Juliet Ashton receives a letter from a stranger, a founding member of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. And so begins a remarkable tale of Guernsey during the German occupation, and about a society as extraordinary as its name. …More

Want to see all the staff picks? In Encore (our catalog) search for HPL Staff Picks.
To sign up for this, or any of our newsletters, check out our Newsletter sign up page.