Monthly Archives: March 2017

Book Review – Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See

Standard

Undersized, snowy-haired German orphan Werner, is a genius with radios. He and his feisty little sister Jutta are wards in Frau Elena’s children’s home. At night they listen to a radio receiver that Werner found and restored and, sometimes, the enchanting feathery voice of a French man talking about light makes them dream that anything is possible.

Blind French girl Marie-Laure is growing up in Paris, where her father, who guards the keys in the Museum of Natural History, has made a model of Paris to help her feel her way around the streets.

The war is pressing down on all of them. It will provide Werner with the unexpected opportunity to attend an elite, but brutal, school from where he will be dragged, too young and too small, into the conflict. Marie-Laure will find herself under the roof of her reclusive, damaged uncle in the ancient walled city of Saint-Malo.

The story opens with the walled city under heavy bombardment. Werner is trapped in a hotel basement in Saint-Malo and Marie-Laure is alone in her uncle’s house as the German army makes the old city the final German stronghold on the Breton coast during the dying weeks of the war.

Like the light we cannot see, there is a luminosity to Doerr’s prose, a glow of innate goodness in people forced to do evil, a pulse of energy in the folding timeline that doubles back on itself.

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2015, a New York Times best seller, a finalist of other book awards, The Light We Cannot See took Doerr ten years to write. It was worth the wait and will always be in my top ten of all-time favourite books.

Advertisements

Book Review – Wild Light by Robyn Mundy

Standard

wild light

Robyn Mundy’s seamless prose doesn’t hit a single discordant note throughout this story of coming of age and regret.

When teenage Stephanie West is pulled into her mother’s dream of returning to her childhood home on Maatsuyker Island, it’s a wrench from Steph’s life in Sydney during her final year at high school.

The island and its basic, lighthouse-keeper house holds little charm for Steph until she meets a young fisherman Tom and until the mutton birds swarm in like giants oil slicks. Just as her mother promised, Steph sees ‘the real Maatsuyker’.

Mundy crafts the tale with a gracious hand, with drift dive pacing. The characters have no more control of their growing enchantment, with the island, with each other, with the great heaving ocean and the stormy sky than puppets on a string. Increasingly Steph doesn’t mind. But then everything changes.

There’s a sixteen year jump and the third act is another beautiful tale as Steph and Tom try to get back to the people they were in 1999. It’s beautiful. The prose is engaging. The setting is so skilfully painted and the gentle way this author crafts troubled but good people is so satisfying. A wonderful, wonderful novel.