Capturing the scope of experience of the Second World War in Europe should be impossible, but Anthony Doerr comes close in his novel, All the Light We Cannot See (Scribner 2014). It’s not that he covers everything; instead, the perspectives of Doerr’s characters—an orphaned German youth, a blind French girl, and a treasure-hunting, cancer-ridden Nazi—come together in a series of brief, alternating chapters to express the huge distance and incredible closeness that can occur simultaneously between humans on Earth and at war. Indeed, simultaneity, plus a narrative thread which explores the role of radio broadcasts throughout the conflict, are what propel the novel toward a climactic moment which feels both inevitable and stunning, and heartbreaking as a result.
Anthony Doerr, All the Light We Cannot See. Published by Scribner (2014). 531 pages.