She says, “When I lost my sight, people said I was brave. When my father left, people said I was brave. But it is not bravery; I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don’t you do the same,
7 August 1944.
The Americans bomb Saint Malo
Marie-Laure is a blind girl who lives with her uncle.
"Congenital cataracts. Bilateral. Irreparable" said the doctor to Marie-Laure’s father.
Because of the war, she begins to feel that her life, like Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, has been interrupted halfway through. There was volume 1, when Marie-Laure and her father lived in Paris and went to work, and now there is volume 2, when Germans ride motorcycles through these strange, narrow streets and her uncle vanishes inside his own house.
Didn’t Marie Laure presume she would live with her father in Paris for the rest of her life? That every year, on her birthday, her father would present her with another puzzle and another novel, and she would read all of Jules Verne and all of Dumas and maybe even Balzac and Proust?
Marie-Laure, misses Papa, Paris, Dr. Geffard, the gardens, her books, her pinecones—all are holes in her life. She thinks of the many times her father put her on his bicycle.
If only life were like a Jules Verne novel, thinks Marie-Laure, and you could page ahead when you most needed to, and learn what would happen.
For portions of every day, she manages to lose herself in realms of memory: the faint impressions of the visual world before she was six, when Paris was like a vast kitchen, pyramids of cabbages and carrots everywhere; bakers’ stalls overflowing with pastries; fish stacked like cordwood in the fishmongers’ booths, the runnels awash in silver scales, alabaster gulls swooping down to carry off entrails. Every corner she turned billowed with color: the greens of leeks, the deep purple glaze of eggplants.
Papa leaves. Madame Manec leaves. She remembers the voices of their neighbors in Paris when she lost her eyesight: Like they’re cursed.
She tries to forget the fear, the hunger, the questions. She must live like the snails, moment to moment, centimeter to centimeter. Was it true that Captain Nemo never left the Nautilus?
Her father’s arrest, the disappearance of Harold Bazin, the death of Madame Manec, the arrest of his uncle Etienne LeBlanc —could this one rock be the cause of so much sorrow?
She is alone, nobody has read for her the warnings that solicit the residents to leave the town.
She is taken by surprise.
At the same time, Werner Pfennig, a eighteen years old boy, is imprisoned in the cellar of a hotel occupied by the Germans.
All his life his schoolmasters, his radio, his leaders talked to him about the future. And yet what future remains?
On the radio, that in some miraculous way, still works, he hears a voice
She speaks quiet, perfectly enunciated French,
Werner thinks of her, whether he wishes to or not. She takes up residence inside him,
Who is she? Daughter of the broadcasting Frenchman? Granddaughter? Why would he endanger her so?
This voice makes him remembering his childhood. He misses the sound of rain on the zinc roof above his dormer; the feral energy of the orphans; the scratchy singing of Frau Elena as she rocks a baby in the parlor. The smell of the coking plant coming in under the dawn, the first reliable smell of every day. Mostly he misses his sister Jutta: her loyalty, her obstinacy, the way she always seems to recognize what is right.
Jutta announces out of nowhere, “My brother is so quick at mathematics. He’s quicker than every one of the schoolmasters. Someday he’ll probably win a big prize. He says we’ll go to Berlin and study under the great scientists.”
But his future is already written: "the only place your brother is going, little girl, is into the mines. As soon as he turns fifteen. Same as every other boy in this house.” The Principles says.
One day a letter arrives.
You have been called, says the letter. Werner is to report to the National Political Institute of Education #6 at Schulpforta.
“You are an orphan, Pfennig, with no allies. I can make you whatever I want to make you. A troublemaker, a criminal, an adult. I can send you to the front and make sure you are crouched in a trench in the ice until the Russians cut off your hands and feed them to you. We serve the Reich, Pfennig. It does not serve us.”
Everything has led to this: the death of his father; all those restless hours with Jutta listening to the crystal radio in the attic; four hundred dark, glittering nights at Schulpforta building transceivers for Dr. Hauptmann. The destruction of her friend Frederick.
Frederick, who did not die but did not recover. Broken jaw, cracked skull, brain trauma. No one was punished, no one questioned
It seems to Werner that in the space between whatever has happened already and whatever is to come hovers an invisible borderland, the known on one side and the unknown on the other. He thinks of the girl who may or may not be in the city behind him.
Marie-Laure' voice is mixed to a voice that directly comes from his past at the Children House.
Listening to that voice with his sister, they could discover a new world.
And why now that voice asks for help ?
Marie-Laure has been blind since the age of six. Her father builds a perfect miniature of their Paris neighbourhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. But when the Nazis invade, father and daughter flee with a dangerous secret. Werner is a German orphan, destined to labour in the same mine that claimed his father's life, until he discovers a knack for engineering. His talent wins him a place at a brutal military academy, but his way out of obscurity is built on suffering. At the same time, far away in a walled city by the sea, an old man discovers new worlds without ever setting foot outside his home. But all around him, impending danger closes in. Doerr's combination of soaring imagination and meticulous observation is electric. As Europe is engulfed by war and lives collide unpredictably, 'All The Light We Cannot See' is a captivating and devastating elegy for innocence....Continua
Beautifully written, a page turner !
This Pulitzer Prize winning novel is certainly of the literature type, rather than a pop fiction. But I am very unsatisfied with the way that the author ends Werner Pfennig's life ! It's utterly disappointing and devastating for me that after Werner sent Marie-Laure LeBlanc off in Saint-Malo to the side of the Allied forces, they'd never meet again !
I have to admit that a happy ending would have pleased me much more. Maybe, the literature type of novel needs some sadness and regret to make it more poignant and realistic such that people taste a bit of the real life. To me, I feel that it's kind of a waste of the development of most of the novel to come to the point that Werner and Marie-Laure have finally met. And then they had to go back to their opposite sides of the war and would never meet again. I felt emotionally cheated and/or used by the author for the emotional investment that I've made on Werner and Marie-Laure.
Another not very satisfactory part is the ambiguity of the ultimate fate of the "Sea of Flames" diamond. It seems that Werner took the model house but left the diamond in the grotto in Saint-Malo but it's not stated clearly. I or we (the readers) can only guess.
Throughout the novel, Marie-Laure was the person that everybody would naturally help/protect. I anticipate eagerly when and how Werner would meet with Marie-Laure (even though it's not guaranteed, it's what a reader would obviously expect). A reader would most likely feel very bad if Marie-Laure is really hurt and fortunately this has never happened. I have felt sympathetic with Werner and felt good when Werner's talent and skill in radio and electronics was recognized which has enabled him to get out of the confine of his orphanage "Children's House". Though somehow the experience at Schulpforta was not all nice, he was brought to the war which led him to meet with Marie-Laure. That was all nice except that their time together was too short to be satisfactory. The early part of the story had a lot of buildup to the moment that the two protagonists met. But then, at the end of book, everybody suddenly becomes even more philosophical and poignant than before. To me, this sudden and unsatisfactory change was more pretentious than anything else :-(
p.148 (18th-19th line): In the sentence "For a moment Werner is back inside his attic room at Children's House, his head a swarm of questions", there seems to miss a word or something after "his head". p.499 (8th line): the 1st "a" in the sentence "He was a just a boy." shouldn't be there....Continua
Light can be seen by heart. Human can probably feel the light better when we are blind. Feel by heart, make the choice and be brave. We always have options for life even in the toughest moment.
Meaningful message behind. intriguing structure of the storyline keeps readers' interest to follow through. But some characters could have more coverage, eg Jutte. How she thinks about her brother and her perspectives....Continua