Saturday, March 12, 2016

All the Light You Cannot See: Book Group Choice

All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr, won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. This is awarded for the best Fiction entry by an American author, preferably dealing with American life. The book was an instant bestseller on the New York Times list.

The Pulitzer Prize is basically given to journalists in many categories, and to work nominated. Although All the Light We Cannot See is fiction, and not about American life, it is almost journalistic in its depiction of the reality of how life must have been in Europe during World War II. 

It is a literary work, dealing with the Second World War, and the two main characters, a German boy and a blind French girl, whose paths cross in Nazi-occupied France. The book is an easy read, and conjures up a vivid picture of the horror of the war and the devastation it caused to Europe and the people who lived there. 

I enjoyed reading the book. I liked the author's use of the English language, although I did get a little tired of what I experienced as his overuse of descriptive passages. A little too flowery for my taste. The language got in the way of the story at times. On the other hand, the characters were believable, as was the story. 

Written from an objective point of view, All the Light You Cannot See clearly lays out different aspects of human nature in the face of a totalitarian authority that brooks no opposition. Some French people capitulated immediately in the shape of the Vichy government under Marshal Petain. Others formed the French Resistance under General De Gaulle and fought for their country. Still others quietly backed up the Marquis by small actions in their everyday lives. The majority kept their heads down and tried to keep out of any trouble. Others were caught up in what was happening, as were the main characters.

Over 60,000,000 people were killed: perhaps more, depending on how the numbers are calculated. Europe was devastated: the old world order had been destroyed, and a new world was born incorporating a different set of values. None of this was mentioned in this novel. I found it a little shallow.

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