Fifteen Reasons to Read "All the Light We Cannot See"
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Fifteen Reasons to Read "All the Light We Cannot See"

“Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.”

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Fifteen Reasons to Read "All the Light We Cannot See"
Vin et Livres

When I first cracked open the cover of All the Light We Cannot See, I was looking forward to the new book smell. Now, when I pull the book from my shelf, I smell stale tea, granola bar crumbs, and pencil lead accumulated over many months of annotating. The pages are crumpled and obsessively sticky-noted, and a few key passages are tear-stained. Interestingly enough, only one or two of those passages are even from “sad” parts of the book—most of them are just, well, super beautiful. My copy is nearly as ruined as I am.

In case no one has already raved about the book to you, it is set during the German occupation of France during World War II and follows the lives of a French girl, Marie-Laure, who is blind, and a German boy, Werner Pfennig, who is a part of Hitler’s Youth. Although I am tempted to, I am not advertising All the Light We Cannot See as “life-changing” or “heart-breaking” because everyone’s reaction to literature is different. However, several factors made my experience with the book feel that way.

Most of all, I was struck by Doerr’s command of language, and how he described things with words I didn’t know could be used to describe them. Doerr describes eggs as tasting like “clouds" and "spun gold” and canned peaches tasting like “wedges of wet sunlight.” And the beautiful, original descriptions flood every page of the novel—I don’t think I can make it five pages through any section of the book without gasping in awe at an image. The way Doerr perfectly describes the “indescribable” beauties of the world inspires me.

But the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is not simply a technical marvel of the English language. Doerr uses his literary prowess to articulate the themes of mortality, love, and hope that so often are cliché in war stories, in poignant, refreshing ways. Doerr gives German soldiers souls and lets them appreciate art, nature, and family; he develops a blind character past the point of her blindness; he lets crises stay messy and unresolved as they do in the real world. Although there is a strain of happy coincidence in the narrative, it doesn’t take away from the powerful expression of human emotion that runs alongside it.

These fifteen quotes are among my favorites from the novel, and are fifteen reasons to go buy a copy. Although they offer some brief insight into the story, they shouldn’t give anything away (except maybe the omnipresent sea symbolism). Enjoy!

1. “I have been feeling very clearheaded lately and what I want to write about today is the sea. It contains so many colors… It is my favorite thing, I think, that I have ever seen. Sometimes I catch myself staring at it and forget my duties. It seems big enough to contain everything anyone could ever feel.”

2. “The sea is everything. It covers seven tenths of the globe . . . The sea is only a receptacle for all the prodigious, supernatural things that exist inside it. It is only movement and love; it is the living infinite.”

3. “Out on the beaches, her privation and fear are rinsed away by wind and color and light.”

4. “To shut your eyes is to guess nothing of blindness. Beneath your world of skies and faces and buildings exists a rawer and older world, a place where surface planes disintegrate and sounds ribbon in shoals through the air.”

5. “His voice is low and soft, a piece of silk you might keep in a drawer and pull out only on rare occasions, just to feel it between your fingers.”

6. “Walk the paths of logic. Every outcome has its cause, and every predicament has its solution. Every lock its key.”

7. “What are words but sounds these men shape out of breath, weightless vapors they send into the air of the kitchen to dissipate and die?”

8. “Time is a slippery thing: lose hold of it once, and its string might sail out of your hands forever.”

9. “The very life of any creature is a quick-fading spark in fathomless darkness.”

10. “Even total darkness is not quite darkness.”

11. “But it is not bravery; I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don't you do the same?”

12. “Don’t you want to be alive before you die?”

13. “Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.”

14. “We rise again in the grass. In the flowers. In songs.”

15. “It's embarrassingly plain how inadequate language is.”

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