NaBloPoMo Day 7: Post the opening sentence of your favorite book. How long has this book been in your life?
"At dusk they pour from the sky."
So begins All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, as leaflets fall from airplanes to warn the inhabitants of St. Malo to depart the city in anticipation of the 1944 Allied attack that will set fire to this last German-occupied city on the edge of the sea.
This novel is, hands down, one of the best books I have ever read. And I have read a lot of books.
When I made it the centerpiece of a sermon, I talked about how the sighted Werner, a young German boy, so smart, so gifted, is caught up in the Nazi war machine and cannot see, and then refuses to see, the truth of his life, while the blind French girl Marie-Laure sees with unflinching clarity. They are connected by a long-past history, which they discover during their brief encounter before the end of the war ~ a history which involves radio broadcasts, the orphaned Werner and his sister, and Marie-Laure's now-broken great-uncle and his brother, lost to another war.
One of my friends, a science teacher, tells me that it's the radio waves that constitute the light we cannot see ~ something this non-scientist did not grasp at all. My friend says that it is all true: Werner sees but does not, Marie-Laure does not but does, and the radio waves light up the air across Europe, making death inevitable and life possible.
Each chapter is a brief vignette, boring through the characters and their lives to illuminate creativity, cowardice, expedience, and courage. People live, people die ~ in Germany, in Russia, in Poland, in France ~ and there is no discernible reason why one thing happens and another does not.
The novel caused me to become interested in St. Malo (the fact that my son Josh had spent some time there ~ now a charming seaside city ~ with his French family when he was in high school made the events of the novel all the more poignant for me) and what happened to it when the Allies attacked, which was this:
I read this book at breakneck speed, so intent was I on putting it all together, and then re-read it very, very slowly, savoring each and every word.
This book came into my life only a couple of months ago. Now that I've written about it, I think I'll start reading it again tonight.