Three of my most trusted book suggesters had told me to pick up All The Light We Cannot See ASAP, and when it won the Pulitzer Prize in May, I finally decided to move it to the top of my TBR stack. I had been hearing about it a ton from the internet feeds I follow and a few bookstores I frequent couldn't keep it in stock quick enough- and obviously for good reason. I have had an incredible month of amazing reads, so I don't want to water down any of my other really high reviews (hello, Station Eleven and The Secret History) but OMG. OMG. I read it obsessively over the course of three days and willingly took public transportation all three days to get an extra 30 minutes in each way of reading, it was that good.
The story follows two characters over the course of about six years in France and Germany during World War II. (I semi rolled my eyes when I heard the premise too because there are SO many story plots about WW2 obviously, but it was such a different telling!) Marie-Laure is a blind teenager, daughter of a key master for the National History Museum in Paris, living with their deranged uncle, essentially fleeing the war and trying to survive. The other character is Werner, who is a brilliant orphaned boy drafted into a special youth forces unit of Germany, obsessed with radios and how technology works, living with his sister in a very poor mining town.
The two characters stories are braided together through time, bouncing around back and forth a bit to a before and after build up but for the most part, pretty consistent story line. Marie-Laure and Werner were some of the most endearing and wonderful characters I have spent time with; so curious, caring, benevolent, and likable. Marie-Laure has such a unique and beautiful relationships with her father, while Werner and his sister have such a pure and magnetic relationship as well, Doerr did such a fantastic job of mirroring these characters while putting them in opposite situations fighting for enemy countries.
There were beautiful vignettes about diamonds, rare birds, the power of radio, french food, siblings and keys- I wanted to savor them all! I really loved all the subplots and twists, it was one of those books I wanted to last for a whole month and also wanted to stay in bed for a whole day and complete it- I couldn't concentrate on real life things while reading it, so magical!
I am giving a really vague description of this book because I don't want to reveal too much besides enough to encourage you read this. Anything that is marked in history as 'Book of the Year' by a celebrated panel is probably a good bet regardless, but if that intimidates you- don't let it! Its a very fast read, each 'chapter' is essentially only one or two pages long, so it could probably be condensed if it wasn't for the formatting. I listened to a long interview from the author that was fascinated- he mentions how growing up he became every book he read and goes on to explain why he was obsessed with shells, 20,000 Leagues Under the Seas, military training, the waves of radio and so on- which essentially became the backbone of this book. AFTER you read it, listen to this! https://youtu.be/V2FAyZ5aYA8 SO INTERESTING.