I woke up this morning, it’s a Friday, and I read through the last one hundred pages of All The Light We Cannot See. I finished it an hour ago. Although it feels it’s been more than an hour, because I have been walking around the flat more slowly, responding to questions only when necessary, and all the while thinking about the story I have just finished.
I’ve written several reviews before but none of them was written at this desk; a desk that faces a corner of our living room, with everything else going on behind me. The TV is on, Sofia the First singing her signature opening theme and my daughter singing along. That was usually the setting to which I wrote all the reviews before; facing the TV and watching my daughter. Today, this time, I am keeping them behind me, in the background, with the smell of fresh baking coming from the kitchen where my wife is probably wondering why I have been a little cranky over the past hour. Maybe she will know if she reads the same story I have read.
I think I read somewhere lately that no two people ever read the same story; that our experiences and perspective and personal histories are as much a part of the story as the words themselves. So, I guess this review is more about me than you; more about my journey with Marie-Laure, Werner, Frederick and Volkheimer, than the book itself.
Countless before me and countless after will speak of books they read and loved and how they were transformed or mesmerized or a dozen other adjectives that we all wear out as we try to convey and share our feelings with the world. I’ve done it and will do it again. But this time, I just want to let it flow, hoping that my rationalization and logic will not kick in and ruin it. This is probably more about me than you. But I hope you continue reading.
Right before I sit down and type away, this image flashed before me that to an extent explained why I have been treading lightly around the house for the past hour and avoiding conversation with my wife. The image is of this dark space, ghosts and phantoms swirling around, some of them peaceful and quiet and others menacing and loud; like the dementors in Harry Potter. And at the center of this dark space, among all these flying phantoms, is a sphere, bright and glowing, inside it, the memories, feelings and images that have been created in my mind by reading this story; the city of Saint-Malo, Marie-Laure’s house, Werner and Jutta crouching in the attic listening to the radio. The sphere protects them, but with every step, with every word, with every thought, the sphere grows smaller. That’s why I’ve been trying to stay quiet and calm. To preserve it. But it still grows smaller. From experience, I know that at some point later today or probably when I crack open the next book on my To-Be-Read list, the sphere will break, and whatever is inside will spill out into the dark space surrounding it and join the phantoms. And hopefully from time to time the spectres will coalesce and I will be able to see them for some fleeting moments and remember how I felt that first time I read the story.
I believe since I’m writing a review and you are reading it for that purpose that I owe you the courtesy of at least touching on some points about the book itself. But as I said, I am afraid of ruining it with worn out clichés. This book has been rated on Amazon over 9000 times. I’m sure somewhere in there someone has written a review that is technically more worthy than mine. For me, I am hoping that I can convey to you how you would probably feel after turning that last page of the book. My story will differ slightly from yours, but I don’t think that will make a big difference.
I will give you some points to explain why this book is great, even though I know I might tint it.
The book is about a blind girl, and without you noticing how or when, the author will bring to life all your other senses, just like Marie-Laure needed to do. You will hear, and listen, you will taste, you will smell and you will feel. You will feel with your skin, and with your heart.
The last thing I will mention, for it is the most important, are the people in the story; the children. For a very long time I had forgotten what it’s like to feel so strongly for fictional characters in a book. And in this story, I am grateful to the author for not giving me just one memorable protagonist, but a whole bunch of them. They are children and their innocence just seeped out from the pages and settled down over me. I will not speak of them in the past tense like I usually do when speaking about books. They are children; they will always be children and they will always be innocent and their innocence will always find someone to touch as long as someone reads their story.
I could keep going on and on, feeling the sphere grow smaller, trying to slow down the process as much as I can. But it is inevitable, and you have probably tired of reading. I’ll end this now and enjoy whatever minutes or hours or hopefully days I have left with the remnants of this reading. And as for you, I hope, for your sake, that you go read this story too.