Reading Roundup: Bealeton Book Club Discusses All the Light We Cannot See
All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr, is a fascinating and thought-provoking story set before and during World War II in France and Germany. It is the story of two children caught up in the turmoil of war.
Marie-Laure is a young, blind French girl whose father works as a master locksmith for the Museum of Natural History in Paris. Her father creates an entire miniaturized version of Paris and later, when they are forced to flee, another miniaturized version of the fortified city of Saint-Malo, so that Marie-Laure can find her way in the neighborhood. Her father is also the guardian of one of 4 stones (1 real, 3 replicas), which he tries to keep from the hands of an emissary of the Third Reich. It is called the “Sea of Flames” and is purported to allow its bearer to live forever, but also suffer family misfortune. Marie-Laure becomes part of the French Resistance, passing secret messages via radio.
Meanwhile, Werner is a young German boy, whose fate would normally be tied to the coal mines, but his ingenuity with radios leads him to join the “Hitler Youth” and play a larger role in the war. The two children grow up during the novel, which flashes forward and backward in time to cover the 10 years before and during the war.
The Bealeton Book Club members enjoyed this historical fiction novel, although it had its dark moments. The horrors of war are evident in the book, but the author’s lyrical prose makes the book beautiful and haunting. Marie-Laure’s strength and courage, despite her blindness and loss of everyone around her, are inspiring. Werner’s struggles with peer pressure, ethics and guilt are thought-provoking. Many other characters in the book were enjoyed, including Marie-Laure’s father, her uncle Etienne, Madame Manec, Werner’s sister Jutta, Frau Elena and more.
The suspense of Marie-Laure and the “Sea of Flames” stone’s whereabouts allowed the story to flow and make the reader keep turning pages. The book club members were divided on whether they liked the constant flash forwards and backwards in the book. It caused some disjointedness throughout the book, but also kept the suspense going. There was some debate over what happened to the “Sea of Flames” stone at the end of the book. Also, there was a lot of discussion about World War II and the devastation to the countryside, the national treasures and the people who lived through it. We thought that this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel was one of the best we have read.
Book Club Meetings:
The Bealeton Book Clubs meet once per month. If you would like to join us, please check our schedule for dates, times and reading selections.
Bealeton Evening Book Club, 3rd Wednesday of the month, 7:30 p.m.
Bealeton Afternoon Book Club, 3rd Thursday of the month, 2:30 p.m.
Mary Sue, Adult Reference, Bealeton branch library
Curious about what our book clubs thought of other books? You’ll find more reviews and reactions in Reading Roundup!