Y’all know I like to read WWII fiction. Hell, half the books on my shelves are WWII fiction, and so many of them are considered favorites. The thing is, the majority of these books are about the Blitz, about London falling in flames while the citizens rose up in valor, and I love that, but there’s only so much one can read about the Blitz.
I do have the occasional non-England WWII book, like the Book Thief, but these books are a minority. This is a strange fact because I love stories about the French Resistance, The Eastern Front, Germans living under the Nazi regime, and the war in the Pacific, but I haven’t read many of these stories. It is because I haven’t discovered these titles or is it because these stories haven’t been written? I don’t know.
I do know that All the Light We Cannot See is a different WWII story, not set in London during the Blitz, but set in Europe. It’s sad as all get out, and there’s a cursed gem, but the main thing is the radio, or radios and radio waves. It was a Goodreads Choice Award winner for 2014. Here’s the summary (via Goodreads):
Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When Marie-Laure is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris, and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.
In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.
I listened to this one on audio, and I regret that. This story loops and shifts in time, which makes it a little hard to connect one chapter to the next when listened to over a long period of time. I will more than likely pick up a physical copy and re-read it just to get some of the minor details I missed. I really enjoyed the symbol of the radio in the story, though, and am looking forward to re-reading to pick up more details about its importance. The radio was such a large proponent of WWII, and it became a large part of this story. Before the war, it was a minor part in the story, and then its significance grew as it connected Werner and Marie-Laure stories together. Of course, this connection is sad. This whole story is sad. Don’t even get me started on the character named Fredrick. If you like to remind yourself that the Third Reich was largely made of children towards the end of WWII, that WWII was horrific, that radios were new technology for this war, then this is the book for you. I’d recommend.