It’s been a while since I last read a book as touching as this one. Anthony Doerr masterfully tells the story in short chapters – no longer than five pages each – flowing with detail. I found myself too emotional to flip a page at times, but I always did to answer my urgent question, “Then what happens?” The short fractions did not fail to catch attention and deliver overall suspense.
Characters are deeply described it’s difficult to pick a favourite. To Marie-Laure I can relate the questions I’ve always had about blindness: How does it feel to be in constant darkness? How do blind people see colours? Instead of melancholy, Anthony Doerr offers sensory: Marie-Laure senses the colour of each person at every moment. She hears the whispers of the sea. She sees the world in different layers, in much more light than our healthy eyes will ever see. In Werner I see ingenuity and wit. A boy with adorable quirky questions, intelligence wasted for militancy. A real man for his love and protectiveness of his sister. If only he had better choices.
True, this is fiction. But this novel troubles me by reminding me there are real wars happening in the real world at this very second. Wars that are made to look natural while actually crafted and supported. In those wars live thousands of real-life Marie-Laures, real Werners, real detained fathers, treacherous neighbours, raped and silenced teenage girls, brain-damaged war victims. We see Werners every day in the videos shared on the internet, the poor orphan boys ready to give their lives to what they thought were true, because they didn’t know any better. Or even have a better option. Human lives are being stopped and values are being stomped.
What is the difference between the current wars and the Second World War that happened 70 years ago – that we all condemn? It was for chauvinism and for xenophobia in the light of fascism. Now it is for greed and world domination and believe it or not, it is causing xenophobia. But what is the difference? There is no difference in the injustice and the damage they bring to the lives of people from all sides of the war. Not only to those whose eyes are hurt but also to those whose hands are used. War is war. Judgement should only be fair to be rightfully considered.
“All the Lights We Cannot See” deserves all the praises it is getting and more, it deserves to be a must-read for all the Generation Y’s and millennials. Seventy years ago the changes might be brought through underground radio broadcasts, codes wrapped in bread loaves. It is now being carried up through social media, mass media and open, collective actions. The forms change but the spirit never does. It is our voices, our words, our faith in humanity, of doing good, in time, that is going to change how the world works.