Book Club First Impression Post

Image result for all the light we cannot see

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.

Descriptive Narrative: I Walk

. . .

I walked under the net of stars. Its one of my first memories. I walked from one peak of the hill to the other passing the bonfire in the valley. I walked from the arms of my mother, to the arms of my grandmother. I hardly remember doing this, but I remember the warm feeling of reaching my grandmother and the chilling experience of walking by the fire in the valley alone. I know that the fire was hot, but I felt cold walking by it as I didn’t have the safety of my mum or my grandmother, Buni. The stars made me feel smaller than I had ever felt before, but the prospect of walking by myself made me feel strong and independent. Reaching Buni made me feel proud, and loved. I don’t remember the experience well, but I remember how I felt. What I felt. Why I felt what I did.

2003/04– Actual picture of me.

We were at camp at the time. I remember we gathered in the big amphitheater for arts activities. They put out supplies to make face masks. I made a mask and disguised myself as a black cat, but I quickly got bored. Soon, I glued jewels to my own face and spread glitter on my eyebrows. Paired with the plastic tiara and the red-yellow paper necklace, I looked rather extravagant. Buni still keeps a picture of me dressed like this on her bedside table. She said that she talks to my picture everyday. I was comforted by her love.

. . .

I walked under the canopy of clouds. They were low that day; I felt like I could almost touch the soft gray-white façade of the clouds. I looked down into a puddle and saw my own grinning face and the rest of the vast sky, vast universe, reflected. I stepped into the puddle with my pink Barbie water shoes, breaking the tranquility of the moment. The rain water seeped into my shoes easily, but I didn’t mind because that is the point of water shoes, to wear them in water; that’s the logic I had at the time at least. I forgot where we are walking to, but it was okay because I was with Buni. She kept me safe but let me wear water shoes out on the sidewalk. As we walked, she explained the water cycle to me.  How water is taken up into the atmosphere and comes back down as rain. I could tell that she was tired because she explained the whole process in Romanian, too worn out to think of any words in English. I get the same way when I am tiered, even now.

We arrive at the park, and I remembered why we came. We came to collect leaves for an art project. The weather was not pleasurable, but it made our fieldtrip seem more adventurous. I picked all of the biggest leaves, but she picked the most colourful and beautiful. She told me a saying that roughly translates to, “Less is more.” I learned then that beauty is simple. Beauty is in everything, if you just choose to see it. My grandmother was beautiful.

. . .

I walk under the low door stoop and up the stairs. Buni lives on the fifth floor of a walk up. At the bottom of the stairs, I turn on the timed light in the hallway. To conserve energy, the hall light only stays on for a few minutes. It shut off at the third floor and I walk in the pitch dark the rest of the way. The air smells like concrete, and the hall feels smooth but bare; not even a window lines the walls, no light breaks the darkness. The railing is metallic and cold.

On the fifth floor I am greeted by the smell of fried potatoes and the embrace of Buni. I am also greeted by her new husband, but I don’t pay much attention to him. My family and I spend the weekend with Buni. Friday we eat dinner. We haven’t all seen each other in a long time, but everything seems to come naturally.

Saturday morning, she makes a special chocolate sauce to go over my porridge and I eat it with pleasure, though I’ve long grown out of those eating habits. We go to visit her garden in the afternoon and Larissa comes over for dinner. We go to a traditional orthodox church on Sunday and I have to cover my arms and legs despite the heat wave. Sunday afternoon, we go to Uncue Gicu’s house and talk. He is a clever man, but he’s not fast enough for Buni. I remember her retorts pinged of the popcorn-ed walls and hitting him right in the head, sending him into a daze. We  drink from the fancy glasses that had coloured bottoms and the swirled shades of red mesmerize me. The porcelain dog seemed to keep an eye on me the whole night.

Monday morning, we had to leave. I didn’t want to, but we had to. We had to go home to our lives in Canada. I had to go back to school and my parents back to work. I tried not to cry leaving Buni’s house, but I did anyways. She cried too, once I started to cry, or maybe she cried first. It was all a haze. It was hard to say goodbye, so instead we said see you later.

When I was young I learned that love is what keeps a family together. Once I grew older I saw the beauty in having a family to trust in. Now I see that family is about difficult truths as well.