Half way through All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr I paused to reflect on human nature and how people are sometimes forced to conform with a socially constructed concept to which they may or may not subscribe yet find themselves consciously participating with a heavy heart and a niggling feeling in their throats..
The book is set during WWII German invasion of France and depicts how "Hitler Youth" are trained to become soldiers for the reich on one hand and the devastation caused by the invasion particularly to a young blind girl who has a vision bigger than any sighted person you’ll ever know.. Told from the perspective of those conformists who do not subscribe to the ideologies prescribed by the "Fuhrer" the story personifies the inner turmoil that one feels when doing something with which they don't particularly agree and the feelings are real and applicable to even less dire situations..
Even in the face of severe punishment for nonconformity people find a way to express their individuality and break away from social norms. The angry French women who supply food and wash clothes use their services as an underground resistance while on the surface they appear to comply hiding little messages in loaves of bread or adding minuscule amounts of toxic elements to the Nazis’ laundry or the kids in the orphanage who find solace in a forbidden radio frequency that tells them all about the world which they would otherwise never experience..
Lights and color are recurring motifs that run in parallel throughout this novel. Marie-Laure, the blind girl. identifies the world by the colors she perceives in everything she experiences. these colors are from her memory as a child but each person or place has a special color that does not necessarily correlate with reality. The lights vary in brightness, the happier the experience the brighter they are. The sea, her favorite place, is a shimmer in her world where all her troubles disappear.
The story runs in many parallels that revolve around the paranormal, depravity, desperation, conformity, camaraderie and loss. It even delves into the world of physics, electronics and marine biology. It was difficult to stay engaged and I got lost in the plot on several occasions but I was determined to finish it because I was too stubborn to let a book go to waste. I was drawn to it from the Kindle reviews and the best-selling status of its author, Anthony Doerr. It is akin to a book that would be assigned as high school reading and I envision it to become one of the classics of our time.