BOOK REVIEW: All The Light We Cannot See – by Anthony Doerr

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Title: All The Light We Cannot See
Author: Anthony Doerr
Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: May 6th 2014
Finished reading: February 24th 2016
Pages: 530
Rating 5qqq

“When I lost my sight, Werner, people said I was brave. When my father left, people said I was brave. But it is not bravery; I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don’t you do the same?”

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I have been wanting to read All The Light We Cannot See ever since it was first published, but somehow I kept posponing it. Maybe it was because of the fact that it won a Pulitzer and I was intimidated, maybe because I’ve seen so many loving this book and I was afraid it didn’t live up to expectations, but now that I’ve read it I wish I would have picked up this novel by Anthony Doerr sooner. I love historical fiction and I have a special interesting in stories set during WWII; it goes without saying that All The Light We Cannot See instantly made it to my list of all time favorite WWII reads. Words cannot describe how beautiful this book is. The prose is simply gorgeous and both the plot and characters are well developed, turning this story into something both unique and breathtaking. The story follows the two main characters, Marie-Laure and Werner, as they are growing up under the shadow of the (upcoming) war, and I really loved seeing those completely different storylines slowly intertwine. It’s a beautiful, breathtaking, sad and original story that will leave you speechless even before you reach the last page. If you like the genre, make sure you read All The Light We Cannot See.

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When Marie-Laure is six, she slowly goes blind and has to rediscover the small things in life. Her father works in the Museum of Natural History in Paris and helps his daughter by creating a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can learn to navigate her way home. Marie-Laure is by no means a helpless little girl and she learns quickly to adapt to her new situation. When she is twelve, she has to put those new skills into practice when the Nazis occupy Paris and they have to flee the city… They try to make it to Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s great-uncle lives. What she doesn’t know is that her father might be carrying the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel with him…

In a small mining town in German, Werner and his younger sister grow up in an orphanage. Werner has been curious ever since he was little and his intelligence starts to show when he is constantly trying to build and fix instruments. His talent wins him a place at an academy for Hitler Youth, where he continues to shine due to his intelligence. But Werner is not so sure he can live with the consequences of his actions…Especially after he is given a special assignment to track the resistance and has to travel through the heart of the war. What will happen to both Marie-Laure and Werner?

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If you normally enjoy reading historical fiction, I’m sure All The Light We Cannot See will be able to take your breath away. Not only is this story exceptionally well written with beautiful prose, but it also has a very intriguing plot and well developed characters. It’s a sad, beautiful and unique story that shows how a war can affect both children and adults alike and that hope can always be found if you look for it hard enough. I feel like my words are failing to describe just how brilliant this book is… But if you think this book sounds interesting, I suggest to just read All The Light We Cannot See. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed!

BOOK REVIEW: The Goldfinch – by Donna Tartt

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Title: The Goldfinch
Author: Donna Tartt
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
First published: October 22nd 2013
Finished reading: August 31st 2015
Pages: 771
Rating 3qqq

“And as much as I’d like to believe there’s a truth beyond illusion, I’ve come to believe that there’s no truth beyond illusion. Because, between ‘reality’ on the one hand, and the point where the mind strikes reality, there’s a middle zone, a rainbow edge where beauty comes into being, where two very different surfaces mingle and blur to provide what life does not: and this is the space where all art exists, and all magic.”

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I’ve had a copy of The Goldfinch on my TBR shelf pretty much ever since it came out, but somehow I have been a bit hesitant to actually start reading it. It’s quite a big read and although I normally don’t mind those, I’ve heard a lot of complaints about the slow pace (especially in the beginning). I will have to agree with those complaints. There is no doubt that The Goldfinch is a very well written novel and I enjoyed Donna Tartt‘s prose in general. But the mere fact that it took me almost two months to actually finish the novel and I was able to finish no less than 44! other novels while I was ‘not’ reading this one says a lot about The Goldfinch… The story itself is very interesting and I liked the idea of the journey of both the main character and the painting, but the pace was so slow that it took me a hard time to stay focused. I have the feeling that I would have liked the novel a lot better if it would have been at least 200 pages shorter. Sure, that way it loses some of its literary value, but it would be way more pleasant to read. Would I recommend this one? If you like literary fiction, love art and don’t mind a big book with a slow pace, The Goldfinch is without doubt an interesting read.

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Theo Decker survives an explosion in a New York museum and a valuable painting comes into his possession. His mother didn’t survive the accident and his father had abandoned them some time before, so Theo finds him without a real home. He is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend and is having difficulties adapting to this new strange life without his mother. The only thing that reminds him of her is the small captivating painting of a goldfinch; a painting the whole world has been looking for ever since the explosion. The goldfinch travels with Theo throughout the years and brings him to different cities, adventures and even countries. As an adult, the painting has become dangerous and is his actions all those years ago came back to haunt him…

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The Goldfinch is without doubt a beautifully written novel and I can understand why it won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Still, the pace was so slow in the beginning that it is very hard to stay focused and continue reading until the pace finally picks up. The last part set in Amsterdam is without doubt the part with the most action in it, and I really enjoyed the many cultural references. It made me crave some of the local food; boy do I miss zuurkool! The prose is very well written and I found many inspiring quotes while I was reading. That said, I don’t think The Goldfinch is a read for everyone. If you have the time and don’t mind the effort, it can be an interesting read though.