It is with great reluctance that I’ve reached the end of Anthony Doerr’s “All the Light We Cannot See.”
It seems years ago, when I opened a used copy of that novel, read and rhapsodized about by my wife and companion.
I could not read this book quickly, this from a reader who, in the past, plowed through tome after tome simply for the thrill of the finish. The prose, poetry really, literally stopped my reading in its tracks. I had to read portions aloud, and wonder, “How can I read this book quickly?”
Even now, opening the book at random and looking down, I’m clobbered by good writing. The blind main character cowers in the middle of a bombardment. “The notion occurs to her that the ground beneath Saint-Malo has been knitted together all along by the root structure of an immense tree, located at the center of the city, in a square no one walked her to, and the massive tree has been uprooted by the hand of God and the granite is coming with it, heaps and clumps and clods of stones pulling away as the trunk comes up, followed by the fat tendrils of roots — the root structure like another tree turned upside down and shoved into the soil, isn’t that how Dr. Geffard might have described it? — th ramparts crumbling, streets leaking away, block-long mansions falling like toys.”
Just one instant from a book that took me weeks, months to read. Jewels crawl from every page (there is a jewel, and there are crawlies), visions are everywhere, all without magical realism, just splendidly described and imagined instances that come together in a narrative knit by Doerr.
The subject matter is common enough, the predations of war, people thrown together by apparent happenstance, individuals torn from each other by circumstance, unnerving reunions, characters both comic and terrifying, and major characters I dare you not to fall in love with.
Sight. Blindness. Deep attachment. The beginnings of love. Companionship. Radio waves. Technology. Indoctrination. Quiet rebellion. It’s all a part of this wonderful book.
I recommend it. But, please don’t be in a hurry. This is one that benefits from a slow read.