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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

To read about movies and TV shows I'm watching, visit my other blog: Elliot's Watching

Thursday, December 11, 2014

One great chapter in All the Light We Cannot See

As noted previously Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See feels like two novels, told in alternating chapters, and tied together by some clever plot twists and unlikely coincidences. As also noted, I am impressed by the technical challenges and by Doerr's artistic skill in the blind-girl novel - some of his accounts of her perceptions of the world, through touch and smell, are very unusual and precise - but I'm more drawn to the teenage Nazi soldier narrative as the central character, Werner, is more compelling and more active. That said, deep into the novel, at last Marie_Laure begins to do something, as, inspired by the household servant, she begins to take part in a resistance movement, smuggling coded messages to her great-uncle who broadcasts the messages from his clandestine radio transmitter. The Werner section, however, still holds me more - a particularly strong and odd chapter involves his visit to the home of his closest friend at the cadet school, Frederick, (the title of the chapter) who was beaten nearly to death by other cadets in the program; Werner visits F. in his Berlin apartment and finds him severely brain-damaged; the mother is cool and indifferent as ever, and the unspoken horror behind this chapter is that the family has now moved into the more spacious 5th-floor flat "vacated" by the Jewish tenant whom we'd glimpsed in passing in an earlier chapter. Doerr does a great job, just as he builds our sympathy for these characters, darkening the frame and letting us know the horror and cruelty on which their wealth and privilege is based.

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