Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Book Review: All the Light We Cannot See (by Anthony Doerr)

"Books are a uniquely portable magic." - Stephen King

And I could not agree more after reading this one. Of course, there are good books and then there are superlative ones. But a very few have that magical quality of touching one's soul and that feeling gets etched forever in memory even though some of the words get blurred with the passage of time.

A blind girl in Paris whose father works at the museum. A boy raised in a orphanage in a nondescript mining town in Germany. Why would their paths ever cross ? Had it not been for a curse, a mindless senseless war (arn't they all ?) and of course a few fleeting moments of love. Love that is pure. Selfless. Unblemished. But that is not all. These two seemingly ordinary people possess something more, something quite extraordinary in common.

The story begins in 1944, travels backs in time to 1934 and then inches back to 1944. There it lingers and blossoms for a while and then abruptly transports one to 2014. And leaves one wondering whether "All the light" actually refer to the sightless but extremely brave and gifted girl Marie-Laure or those blinded by their greed and desire for power. The mindless killings, the wake of broken families and millions of ordinary people plucked out of their cities/towns/villages, this and everything else that wars are all about. "Can they not see ?"

While the entire story is enthralling and holds one's attention, it does have some sections that are relatively more endearing. The efforts of the father to make his blind girl self-sufficient, his patience and ingenuity of building miniature models of the city to make her learn every single road, alley or building is something magnificent. And so is the girl's quest for soaking up knowledge.

In contrast, Werner's childhood is starkly deprived. But the boy's self-taught expertise ( or shall we call it gifted ?) with the radio and his desire to do something different rather than working in the mine, "Life: it;s happening beyond the mill, beyond the gates." he tells us, take him into another world. A world that is not perfect and not certainly not what he expected.

And then, the fleeting and haphazardly scattered mention about the snails. I especially liked the one in Saint Malo where Marie discovers a entire wall studded with thousands of them. At first, these bits seems like beautiful flowery prose that serve a purely literary purpose and do not contribute to the narration in any way. It is only towards the end that the author reveals their significance and leaves one amazed. Yet again.

If you love books, then this is a real gem. A bit pricey (Rs 899) but worth every rupee.

1 comment:

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