ThoughtsFromBooks: All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr




I’ll start with a confession. I don’t read books more than once[1]. (No, not even Harry Potter.) Now before you go sharpening your pitchforks and gathering the townsfolk, let me explain. I don’t reread books because there are always so many new ones waiting to be picked up and there’s only so much time in a day. I can still see you grumbling but hear me out. Let me redeem myself. I haven’t read any book twice. Except for All The Light We Cannot See. In fact, this was the book that convinced me that I can read the same book many times over. And that the time spent doing so is worth it. I guess one of the reasons I enjoyed reading this book again is the way it is written. Take the opening paragraph for instance:


At dusk they pour from the sky. They blow across the ramparts, turn cartwheels over rooftops, flutter into the ravines between houses. Entire streets swirl with them, flashing white against the cobbles. Urgent message to the inhabitants of this town, they say. Depart immediately to open country. 

— Anthony Doerr, All The Light We Cannot See

You see what I mean? You see? It is like watching a movie in HD: crisp and sharp. The writing drips with texture and beauty and elegance.  And it is supplemented with an exceptional, heartrending story. Set mostly during World War II, it details the lives of Marie-Laure, a blind French girl who loves to read Verne, and Werner, a German orphan who’s wizardry with radios eventually lands him into the Wehrmacht. There is also a diamond which legend says, is cursed, and an eccentric but lovable old man who is visited by ghosts from the First War, the one which happened not very far in the past.

I picked up the book at an airport (where it seems, I pick up most of my books) and I finished it in one sitting (quite literally). And then, I read it again.

So go do that. And if you have read it or have any other book thoughts, tell me about them!

Until next time.


Other news: I have started writing for my institute’s blog as part of our outreach program. The first post went live earlier this week. It’s about dark matter (because dark matter is awesome) and has a Hannibal comic (because Hannibal is awesome and also dark). Go check it out? Pretty please?

Also, I recently got introduced to Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History podcasts and maybe this is the reason I have been thinking about this book so much. Wars are terrible. The human cost of the war, even more so. When we talk about the casualties of these wars — for instance, 250,000 wounded in a day it is important to realize that this number is not a statistic. It holds 250,000 sets of hope and ambition. 250,000 lives that will never be the same again. I guess what historical fiction does, is to humanize these statistics. And remind us that even though wars might be fought because of ideologies, and between nations, it is always the people who lose. 

[1] I mean cover to cover. Of course, I revisit favorite chapters and/or passages. I’m not a complete monster.


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