It’s always such a wonderful thing when you come across an author you’ve never heard of before and fall in love with their work. Finding someone new who just chimes with all that you love in a good book is such a joy.
Some great online writer friends of mine had been talking about a particular novel a while ago, but I was already into something else so I put the recommendation temporarily on hold. Then came a space and the recurring thought of: ‘oh, time for a book treat what shall I get?’ I got several things as it happens, and one of them was this book, one of the best I’ve ever read and one I can’t wait to read again. Okay, so what was it? Who’s the author?
It was this:
I had not heard of Anthony Doerr before, I missed his story that won the Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Award in 2011, though I’ve read that too now. ... and what a story, absolutely sublime. More on that later. Back to the book. First published in 2014, it has two parallel narratives, one about a German boy, the other a French girl during the Second World War. It features radios, model buildings, humanity, barbarity, courage, fate and snails. It goes back and forth in time, gives detailed technical information, doesn’t make everything black and white, good or bad ... there’s lots of grey and happenstance. Everything is so seamlessly woven into the narrative and though it alternates between the two protagonists you never lose a sense of where you are in the story; that’s very clever but not remotely tricksy. The language is profound, fluent, glorious and takes you to a whole other level. I won’t write a conventional review here, because too much would be given away by all those little plot points and character profiles.
The journey through this work is an experience to be savoured and left for readers to discover in their in their own way and in their own time. If I tell you it won the Pulitzer maybe that’ll give you some idea of the heft of this book without revealing anything to spoil it. It’s absorbing, affecting and a real page-turner. Just go read it for yourself.
I’ve also been reading ‘Memory Wall’, Doerr’s anthology of novella and short stories. There’s some pretty good stuff here too! Tagged on at the end of the copy I have is that story, the one I mentioned earlier. It was a big win for Doerr, the prize money is £30,000 the largest for a single short story. His winning piece, ‘The Deep’, also touches on some of the themes in ‘All the Light..’ and juxtaposes the fragility of life with all its affirming exuberance, exemplified by the young, enquiring minds at the heart of it. It’s a fabulous story.
I shall be seeking out other work by this author. ‘All the Light ...’ took ten years to write and it’s probably his best to date. Earlier work doesn’t always reflect the same degree of accomplishment in an author, but here is someone who has ideas I’m interested in and an approach I empathise with. It will be fascinating to see how his work has developed over time and through experience ... I can’t wait.