This weekend I finished reading one of the most beautiful stories I have ever read. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2015, and one need only read a chapter or two to appreciate why.
It tells the story of two youths in vastly different circumstances whose lives are forced to turn down unimaginable new paths during the years of the second world war. Marie-Laure is a blind French girl who flees with her father from Paris to Saint-Malo on the coast after their country is invaded, carrying with them a powerful and dangerous secret. Werner is a brilliant, self-trained radio technician whose natural curiosity and ambition let him escape the German mines he was fated to live and die in, but at what cost? The two paths wind unknowingly together until they collide in one of the most gripping, heart-wrenching and utterly beautiful pieces of fiction I have ever enjoyed.
It's the kind of story an aspiring writer can only dream of penning. The kind of story that you stay up late for, find moments in your day for, and miss once it comes to its end. It's the kind of writing that makes your heart sing and tears come to your eyes as they whizz back and forth across the pages, devouring the story they tell. It's storytelling that blows a door open than many only ever to lightly knock on. But how better to tell you than to show you? Below are just some of the countless beautiful lines readers are blessed with as they consume this story. If this doesn't convince you to add this one to your 'must-read' list, bumping it right to the top, then I can only say I am sorry that this is one joy you will miss out on. (Read it. Just read it.)
"The brain is locked in total darkness, of course, children. It floats in a clear liquid inside the skull, never in the light. And yet the world it constructs in the mind is full of light. It brims with colour and movement. So how, children, does the brain, which lives without even a spark of light, build for us a world full of light?"
"His voice is low and soft, a piece of silk you might keep in your draw and pull out only on special occasions, just to feel it between your fingers."
"Don't you want to be alive before you die?"
"She thinks: they just say words, and what are words but sounds these men shape out of breath, weightless vapours they send into the air of the kitchen to dissipate and die?"
"To men like that, time was a surfeit, a barrel they watched slowly drain. When really, he thinks, it's a glowing puddle you carry in your hands; you should spend all your energy protecting it. Fighting for it. Working so hard not to spill one single drop."
"She loves to ask them about their lives, to wonder what adventures they've had, what lusts, what secret follies they carry in their hearts."