readingcook

All the Light We Cannot See

In My Book Club Books, My Favorites on June 13, 2015 at 3:57 am

The Literary Epicurean Book Club Selection June 13, 2015

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 by Anthony Doerr

2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction Winner

(Also, a finalist for the 2014 National Book Award and the 2015 Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction; winner of the Australian International Book Award; a #1 New York Times bestseller; the 2014 Book of the Year at Hudson Booksellers; the #2 book of 2014 at Amazon.com; a LibraryReads Favorite of Favorites; named one of the ten best books of the year by the New York Times Book Review; a best book of 2014 at Powell’s Books, Barnes & Noble, NPR’s Fresh Air, San Francisco Chronicle, The Week, Entertainment Weekly, the Daily Beast, Slate.com, Christian Science Monitor, the Washington Post, the Seattle Times, the Oregonian, the Guardian, and Kirkus)

Book Description (Courtesy of Goodreads): Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When Marie-Laure is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris, and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel. In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge. My Thoughts: What a great piece of historical fiction, brilliantly plotted and beautifully told.  I thought the plot was complex and unique, jumping back and forth as it told the two very different stories of the two children, one German and one French, and how they were caught in the horror of WW II . The author developed these protagonists, as well as other meaningful supportive characters, so well that I  deeply cared about what would happen to each of them. Not just Marie-Laure and Werner, but also Papa, Uncle Etienne, Frederick, and Jutta. The author did a masterful job developing them and thankfully didn’t leave too many threads hanging at the end. All the characters served a purpose in terms of giving the reader a little more insight into what people on both sides of the conflict were going through and how that influenced the choices they made. I thought I knew quite a bit about WW II, but there were still so many things throughout the book that I hadn’t considered or been aware of. The plot, the characters, and all the historical details were all exceedingly well presented, but the writing itself was, for me, just the best part about the book. Such incredible sensory details (“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.”) and so many specific quotes that just resonated with me (“You know the greatest lesson of history? It’s that history is whatever the victors say it is. That’s the lesson. Whoever wins, that’s who decides the history. We act in our own self-interest. Of course we do. Name me a person or a nation who does not. The trick is figuring out where your interests are.” ) Beautifully written, utterly fascinating, and incredibly enlightening pretty much sums up my reaction to this book. This is just one of those books that is going to stay with me for awhile. My Rating: 5/5 Book Club Discussion: What a great time we had discussing this book! I think it was one of our longest and most in-depth discussions ever. We had decided on this book just before it was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, so we started our discussion questioning what exactly made this book worthy of such a prestigious award. One member immediately brought up the excellent point about the degree of research that went into this story and how all the different parts managed to connect as it came to an end. We found the plot to be well thought out and thoroughly researched resulting in a very intense read that grabbed our complete attention from the very beginning. That definitely made it award worthy. Not that this book did not have its shortcomings, because there were a few. There were many side stories and assorted characters, and that caused a bit of confusion for each of us and left us with some unanswered questions at the end. None of us was really convinced that the whole story line about the search for the missing jewel even needed to be in there. However, one member noted that it may have been included just so there would continue to be discussion about it long after you finished the book. Authors do love doing that to the reader. Another minor issue was that not everyone was satisfied with the ending. At least two of our members didn’t expect that Werner would die at the end. That was all just so senseless, but, then again, so is war so that may been exactly the point. Also, when Werner’s sister Jutta went to see Marie-Laure after the war was over, at least one member was disappointed that she didn’t want to know more about her late brother. Jutta just wasn’t able to get past all the horrors she had suffered, and that was unfortunate. What was satisfying about the ending, however, was that it did give some closure to what happened to some of the characters after the war, how some were able to forgive and move on to useful lives, and some were not, such as Jutta, who didn’t seem able to forgive and unable to truly move on and reach her full potential. Overall, the tone at the end was one of hope which was desperately needed after the telling of such a sad story. Another discussion question brought us back to the two epigraphs at the opening of the book. I think we all quickly read them and moved on when we first started reading the book, but each of the two quotes now held incredible meaning as we reread them and discussed them after having completed the book. The Joseph Goebbels’ quote was especially significant about the role of the radio and how it helped Hitler and the Nazis gain power. From there we discussed the impact of the internet on our society, how overloaded we are with information and misinformation and superficial information. Then as now, we as a society really should pay more attention to what we take as truth… Moving on, our next question was whether the book reaffirmed or changed opinions we held. For some members, the book gave a better understanding of how WW I and the treaty set the German people up to put their trust in Adolf Hitler then subsequently become the aggressor in WW II. While we were all aware that propaganda was widespread and powerful, I don’t think any of us were aware of what was being done to the boys in the Hitler Youth Group training. That was absolutely chilling. This book impacted us each in a different way, and we believe we are coming away with a stronger intent of putting things in perspective, the best intentions of maintaining our integrity and values as best we can in even the most challenging situations, and being more compassionate of others and less judgmental taking into account that everyone comes with experiences that shape them. All in all, it was a story worth telling, and we loved reading and discussing it. Book Club Rating: 5/5 Resources: Similiar Books: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah Favorite Quotes Time Lapse WWII/Modern Photos of France Book Club Discussion Questions

All the Light We Cannot See Menu

Aperitif French Martini

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Appetizers Fig and walnut confit with goat cheese Herb garlic soft French style nut cheese

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Main Dishes

French Onion Soup

French Bean Salad

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Dessert Julia Child’s Reine de Saba avec Glacage au Chocolat Macaroons

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Wine Island Girls of Corsica Chardonnay Reserve De L’aube

After Dinner Tea Harny and Sons Fine Teas from Paris

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