So far, I have been greatly enjoying All the Light We Cannot See. It combines an exceptional profoundness with a dramatic plot and dynamic characters, all elements which contribute to the book’s overall merit. I cannot predict what will transpire next. Most importantly, though, the book constantly forces me to think, ponder, and wonder. The book promises to be one of my favorites.
One of the novel’s aspects which particularly stands out to me is the symbolism of the radio. The radio seems to be a manifestation or a connection to the wider world, bringing new ideas and knowledge into Werner’s and Marie-Laure’s life. However, once Hitler rises to power, the radio is like a trap, confining the German people to one mindset and one sadistic philosophy. When Werner destroys his and Jutta’a handmade radio (which can receive signals from beyond Germany), he is actually cutting off his connection with the non-Nazi world and, in a way, with his own individuality. During this scene, I personally was furious with Werner; he is pushing away his sister, Frau Elena, his morals, and everything he has ever known for the sake of his own ambition and the shining possibilities he perceives before him. Maybe for him, the radio seems like an escape from the dark prison of the mines, but he is merely escaping to a higher-class prison which will chain his mind as well as his body. Thus, the radio is like a channel for freedom and entrapment, ushering both purity and malice along its electromagnetic waves. Perhaps the radio waves are a form of the “light we cannot see”, both literally and figuratively; they are invisible signals as well as ideas, thoughts, and beauty to which not everyone has access.
Doerr also utilizes detailed, evocative imagery in his novel, somehow conveying not only the scene but also the mood accompanying the setting. For example, when Marie-Laure is attempting to lead the way home from the museum based on her knowledge of the neighborhood, Doerr narrates, “A trio of airborne ducks threads toward them, flapping their wings in synchrony, making for the Seine, and as the birds rush overhead, she imagines she can feel the light settling over their wings, striking each individual feather” (Doerr 41). Not only can one picture the swift ducks and the little girl in one’s mind, but also one receives a sense of the freedom Marie-Laure feels as a result of being able to conquer her blindness.
Finally, I found the constant transition between characters’ perspectives and time periods quite intriguing. One can perceive how Marie-Laure and Werner’s lives will connect and intertwine – indeed, how all of the characters’ fates will eventually be tied up together. For certain, none of the characters’ lives will ever return to normal, though that wish is constantly expressed by the protagonists. Indeed, when Doerr uses the phrase “Silent Germans row up the Seine in synchrony…they have beasts with them on chains…Slavering. Ravenous. They surge into the museum, scatter into the departments. The windows go black with blood” (Doerr 66), it is impossible to imagine that any lives will ever return to the calm “Bonjour, bonjour” which marks Marie-Laure’s sense of normalcy. I am particularly concerned about Marie-Laure’s father, who does not seem to be present during the bombing. He seems almost too perfect of a father-loving, loyal, clever (I love the puzzle boxes he constructs), so some disaster must befall him. The misfortune is perhaps foreshadowed by the Sea of Flames and its ominous curse, or perhaps the infamous jewel is only a metaphor for the enormous tragedy of World War II. Either way, I have a sense of impending doom.
Thus far, ATLWCS (even the acronym is long!) is amazingly compelling. I can hardly wait to read the rest, but I will try to restrain myself from revealing anything too early. Have fun reading everybody!