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Saturday, 19 March 2016

Anthony Doerr - All the Light We Cannot See

Review by showhost
Marie Laure became blind at the age of 6.  She lives with her father in Paris, it is 1934.  Marie Laure learns to get about with the help of her father who builds a miniature model of where they live so she can feel the buildings and the streets.  She counts her steps when she goes out.  She loves books and he buys her Braille books for her birthday and builds her another little miniature building.
Her father is a curator at the museum and specialises in gem stones.  There is one gemstone in particular which rumour says it has powers, levity for the owner but bad luck for those around them.  It is a fire diamond.

Werner & his sister Jutta live 300 miles away in Germany, they are raised in a kindly childrens house.  They are amongst other orphans whose fathers have been killed working the mines.  Werner is 7 years old, small for his age with white hair. Age 8 he finds a broken radio which has been chucked out behind the shed.  Werner fixes it and they listen to it in the Home.  One thing in particular they listen to is a French man who talks about the most interesting of subjects, science and nature and plays classical music, they sit enthralled.

When the threat of war looms in 1939 Marie & her father leave Paris and travel to Saint Malo to stay with her eccentric uncle.  The museum have 3 replicas made of the fire diamond and each curator takes one of the diamonds, none knowing which is the real one.

Werner knows that at 14 years old he will be expected to go down the mines like his father and generations before.  He cannot stand the thought of spending days and nights confined underground.  Chosen youths are being gathered and sent to a cadet school to learn to live, fight & die for the fuhrer and motherland and Werner is offered the chance to go because of his special skills with radios and his academic brain.  Jutta does not want him to leave – can he not see what he will be expected to do?

When war comes the German army advance and Saint Malo comes under attack.  Marie is 16.  Her father has been taken for questioning about the diamond.  Her uncle has hidden a radio receiver and is helping the resistance.

Werner is working with a team tracking people who are transmitting information, a trail which takes them from Russia to Austria and France.

Sargeant major Reinhold von Rumpel is dying of cancer and as the german army advance into france he looks for the diamond of fire and will not give up looking until he finds all four copies.

The story moves back and forwards from 1945 to 1934 until the two time zones meet.  We go from Marie to Werner, living the build up of the war and events through them.  It isn’t gruesome or gory just a slowly unfolding story of the people and how their lives touch and then are gone.  It could have finished a couple of chapters earlier it drag a little uneccessarily but as the story came to its final quarter it became tenser.   A very engaging book and  a good read.

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