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A 5 star for many, but not so much for me

All the Light We Cannot See: A Novel - Anthony Doerr

There are so many awesome things about this story. A blind French girl reading Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea in braille. A German orphan boy whose talent for cobbling odds and ends into radios enables him to escape working in the mines, only to end up as a soldier of the Third Reich. A doting father who creates tiny model cities so that his blind daughter can navigate the streets on her own. Subversive radio broadcasts and secret notes baked in French loaves. There is a magical MacGuffin in the form of a 133 carat diamond that ties the characters and story together. Well, that and a little event called WWII. This diamond is fabled to bring lasting life to the owner along with death and misfortune to the owner's loved ones. Clearly this diamond belongs at the bottom of the sea.


No one can argue that the book is beautifully written. The author has a gift for crafting words to perfectly describe a thing, an action or feeling. Early in the book I made a status update about how I felt a bit overloaded with metaphors. I feel a little bad about that now. I came to realize that the author was using language to convey Marie-Laure's non-visual experience of the world. But the clever modeling was not limited to Marie-Laure's POV, here are some examples:


     She's eating wedges of wet sunlight
     Doubts slipping in like eels
     Marie-Laure can hardly fit it into the mouth of her knapsack
     She twines herself tighter into her blanket
     The tender hissing of the grass.


I don't know if anyone has made the analogy, but beautiful prose and long winding story reminded me of Mark Helprin's writing. And, like Mark Helprin, I don't always connect. Part of the fault lies in the fact that I listened to the audio version of the book. I think this would have been best read with eyeballs, at least initially. The book jumps time periods several times, and that is always a bit tricky to follow in an audiobook. Even worse, I don't think it would have hurt anything to have told the story in chronological order. The story is already told in dual POVs, shifting back and forth into time was enough for me, philistine that I am.


The book is pushing 4 stars for me, but am dropping it back a half in protest of the publisher's limitation put on the library copy of the audiobook. Specifically, the publisher does not allow the audio book to be transferred to an Apple device. If interested, details of that debacle can be found behind the spoiler tags.



I am pissed at Simon & Schuster Audio

I wait in line forever to get this audiobook from the library only to find out I cannot transfer to an Apple device. It's the publisher's choice, and other than calling them out on it on twitter, my choices are limited:

1) buy an non-apple device to listen (that's a waste)
2) listen to it while at my desk (not gonna happen)
3) wait in line to check out the ebook and read it (grumble grumble, back to the end of the line)
4) purchase it from Audible (I'm too mad to do this)
5) channel my anger into finding a technical workaround (THIS IS WHAT I ENDED UP DOING, AND I DID SEVERAL BACKFLIPS TO MAKE IT HAPPEN)

Raspberries to you @SimonAudio

(show spoiler)