For our first book club assignment, we were assigned to write a first impressions blog post. I will be covering my thoughts and feelings about the plot, setting/mood, character, style/voice, symbolism, theme. If you want to check out some other first impressions blog posts, go to see these people’s blogs! Sydney, Vanessa, Rachael, Kaleigh. Warning, if you are planning to read this book in the future, there are spoilers about the book in this blog post and in the others I linked above!
For our book club novel, we have begun to read “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr. I am very happy with this book choice so far and have enjoyed all aspects of the book greatly. Though I am less than half way through the book, I can tell that this is a good read. The book describes the story of two teenagers during World War II (WWII), one a blind girl in Nazi-occupied France (Marie-Laure), the other a German orphan boy pressed into service by the Nazi army (Werner).
Though the plot was slow to start, I enjoyed that the author took the time to establish the norm of the characters and their lives before breaking the norm; like when Doerr takes the time in the beginning to describe a few regular days in the life of Werner. When the norm was broken and Werner decided to leave the orphanage and go to the Nazi Army, I appreciated the meaning of his actions much more because I got the chance to understand him first and understood that it was a difficult decision to make. The plot is easy to follow, shown from multiple perspectives which makes for a dynamic story, and is illustrated well through the unique writing style.
The style of the book is consistent throughout while the voice changes slightly as the story is told from different character’s perspectives. The style is very descriptive but direct. Doerr is very effective at creating dominant impressions in his writing and his stanza is poetic. I enjoy that there is little dialogue in this book, he shows the characters more through actions and descriptions than by the dialogue. Doerr “shows, not tells” as Mr. Albright might say. The voice however changes slightly as the chapters go back and forth between different points of view. For example, in Werner’s POV, the description is more visually based, however, in Marie-Laure’s POV, the description is more inclined to the other senses since she is blind. The voice is consistent however with in the different character’s perspectives.
The characters in the book are very dynamic. The two main characters are rather similar in nature, but have different circumstances that soon make the reader see their differences. Both Werner and Marie-Laure young, curious, and impressionable. However, as their circumstances we begin to see their differences. When Marie-Laure flees to St. Malo with her father, we begin to see that she is very dependant her father and that she is innocent and sheltered because of her dependence. We also begin to see that she is very imaginative and often defiant when she begins helping Madame Manec’s efforts against the German’s occupancy in St. Malo. When Werner join the “Hitler’s Youth”, we see that he is independent (as he leaves his only family), kind (when he befriends Fredrick), and smart (when he begins to assist prof. Hauptmann). Though all of these character traits are seen from the beginning of the book, I really noticed them at these sections.
Though I don’t usually enjoy historical fiction books, I do enjoy this one. The setting seems much more realistic and dynamic because both sides of the war are shown in this book through the setting and the characters. The mood varies throughout, but remains melancholy for the bulk of the beginning. I think that the setting is crucial to the story line as it does involve history, so I would recommend to anyone who wants to read this book to pre-read a little bit about the era (From 1934-1944 Germany and France, WWII).
I did not notice a lot of symbolism in this book so far, the author explains very complex ideas more through monologues and comparisons than through symbols. I do think that the Sea of Flames does represent greed of people and that greed is a curse of itself when we see people try to and fail at getting the diamond. I think that the radio is also a symbol of Werner’s way out of poverty, but also his greatest downfall as it leads him to the Nazi School where he may have to use his radio skills for evil.
Since we have not finished the book yet, it is hard to comment on the themes as we don’t know the implications and context of the themes in the second half of the book. The main themes that I see emerging throughout the book are: the tragedies of war, the power we have over our destinies, and the humanity that we all have with in us. I think that the book beautifully illustrates these points through the context of the war, as the characters are forced into less than ideal situations. The two points of view also illustrate how similar two people on opposite sides of the war are actually so similar in so many ways. I really like that the history in this book serves a higher purpose than setting; it contributes to the theme, plot, symbolism and characters development.
I have really enjoyed this book so far and I am excited to continue reading this novel in our book club.