I made a short list this year thanks to discovering a new favorite author and one of the most moving and memorable stories I've ever read. All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr was my favorite book of 2014.
Set during the Nazi occupation of France, this spellbinding novel illustrates the triumphs and tragedies of a continent at war and a city under siege. The walled city of Saint Malo, rich in history before the war, is the only remaining German stronghold at its end and becomes a target for the Allied forces.
It’s an evocative setting but the highlight of this story truly is the characters. They come from all backgrounds and on all sides of the war. They all struggle with circumstances beyond their control: a gifted locksmith, a battle-scarred World War II veteran, some very creative saboteurs as well as a “giant” of a boy who intimidates his way through the ranks of the Hitler Youth. Each touches the heart but it’s the war’s impact on the lives of two young people – Marie Clare LeBlanc and Werner Pfennig -- that frames the novel.
Overcoming the loss of her mother, her sight and her home, Marie-Clare plays an unlikely role during the Nazi occupation. With vacant eyes and her white cane she navigates the streets of Saint Malo, guarding dangerous secrets and valuable treasure.
Werner’s journey begins in an orphanage in German coal country and takes an unexpected turn when he repairs a discarded radio. Despite warnings from his wise-beyond-her-years younger sister, it’s the radio’s circuitry -- rather than the intercepted transmissions -- that captivates the boy's imagination. Technical skills earn Werner a coveted military school education and an awe-inspiring visit to modern Berlin. But there’s a sinister underside to Werner’s new life that he is unable to ignore.
All The Light We Cannot See is epic, poetic, and in many ways eye-opening. History, science, magic and suspense blend perfectly in this mesmerizing story that offers hope even amid the most dire of circumstances.