All the Light by Anthony Doerr

Review of All the Light by Anthony Doerr




The book club met on Sunday the 24th of October and Mr.Amitabh Jindal discussed one of the most fascinating stories  about a blind girl, Marie Le Blanc whose father is a locksmith and works at the Paris museum. The novel has three tales woven into one, set in the time of World WarII. it spans a period of near eighty years from 1934 to 2014. In Germany, a  young orphan called Werner is a whiz kid at radio appliances and is seen by  Commandant Siedler who is impressed and pays him to set the machine right . He sends the  boy to the Political Institute of Education divining that he is a genius and will go far.

Meanwhile the father of Marie trains her to face her physical challenges by teaching her Braille and encouraging her to read and wakes her up to go out with him down 4 floors to the Museum 6 blocks away each morning. He fashions a model of the neighborhood in wood and helps her to learn about the paths and roads around. The clock is the key to position, as potato is 6 pm, mushroom is 3 and so on. Marie thus becomes independent and can navigate pretty well. Having lost one sense her hearing is very keen. And her color sense is remarkable bells are bronze and trees are ginger. He brings her the novel, Around the World in Eighty Days to hone her sense of adventure.

Werner meanwhile is aware of the Nazi propaganda through radio broadcasts. His sister Jutte worries about his interests. Doubts like eels keep creeping into his mind. He is bright and go getting but the war machine gets to all. Paris is invaded and Marie and Le Blanc flee to Saint Malo where her uncle Etienne is living with Madame Manec  who takes care of this 72 year old Schizophrenic  a victim of World War One.

Werner is conscripted and is now with a big boy Frederick in the thick of war. Frederick is injured and suffers a brain injury. They strip the dead of their boots and clothes to survive the coming winter. Homeless and hungry they somehow survive.

Le Blanc is recalled to Paris and has now fashioned a model of Saint Malo for Marie to find her way around.

Von Rumpel a diamante or gemologist is in quest of a rare diamond called the Sea of Flames.  The original diamond has been taken to Paris by Le Blanc. He has given Marie the novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea to absorb the truth of confinement. Metaphors abound in the novel as the hunt for the diamond is close. Marie and Uncle Etienne sit together and listen to the radio. Marie learns to broadcast. Rumpel stalks Marie and she hides behind the false door of the cupboard. Werner meets and falls in love with Marie, sensing her danger he kills Rumpel and they flee together. But he tells her to go back to Paris, with her box of the diamond. There are three copies of the diamond.

What mazes there are in the crystals as in life.  The real diamond, Sea of Flames is safe with Marie.  The novel has a happy ending with Jutte and Marie settling in independent posts.  A must read novel for those who like to read beyond the lines to find deeper meanings in the author.

Indu Kulkarni

Nityaasha Foundation