Book Club: All the Light We Cannot See and Nine Perfect Strangers
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
After I read The Book Thief, I started seeing a lot of advertisements to check out All the Light we Cannot See. Apparently, the internet knows I like WWII books starring young children. When I shared on Instagram stories I would be reading this book, I got a LOT of DMs from people who have already read the book saying I was going to love it. Here’s what I think.
From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the stunningly beautiful instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.
Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.
In a mining town in Germany, Werner Pfennig, an orphan, grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they have never seen or imagined. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments and is enlisted to use his talent to track down the resistance. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another
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If there’s anything Anthony Doerr is really good at, it’s writing beautifully written prose that haunts the imagination.
I’m not going to lie, when I first started this book, it was hard for me to get into because it starts off kind of slow, but once I got to the heart of the action, I was all in! It’s a harrowing story of childhoods robbed due to the war. Parisian Marie-Laure is a blind girl when she is forced to flee her home and move into her agoraphobic great-uncle’s home in the countryside. Werner is an orphaned boy “recruited” (or more like forced) to joint he Hitler youth when they discover his knack for engineering brilliance. Their two stories, while extremely different, somehow intersect when a certain jewel called The Sea of Flames comes to play and a certain Nazi gemologist comes looking for it.
This story is haunting but also at times deep. Was it fate that brought Marie-Laure and Werner together? Or was it chance? Does it even matter? These are the questions that popped through my head as I was reading how the stories unfolded. I gave this book five out of five stars on Goodreads. I highly recommend you check it out!
Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty
As a big Liane Moriarty fan, I waited with anticipation for her newest book. Her books are usually a hit or miss with me but when they are a hit, they’re a bullseye! When they’re a miss, they’re still somewhere on the target and I never walk away from any of her books feeling regret for reading it (unlike with Landline by Rainbow Rowell). Now that I’ve read it and had some time to process, here are my thoughts.
Could ten days at a health resort really change you forever? In Liane Moriarty’s latest page-turner, nine perfect strangers are about to find out...
Nine people gather at a remote health resort. Some are here to lose weight, some are here to get a reboot on life, some are here for reasons they can’t even admit to themselves. Amidst all of the luxury and pampering, the mindfulness and meditation, they know these ten days might involve some real work. But none of them could imagine just how challenging the next ten days are going to be.
Frances Welty, the formerly best-selling romantic novelist, arrives at Tranquillum House nursing a bad back, a broken heart, and an exquisitely painful paper cut. She’s immediately intrigued by her fellow guests. Most of them don’t look to be in need of a health resort at all. But the person that intrigues her most is the strange and charismatic owner/director of Tranquillum House. Could this person really have the answers Frances didn’t even know she was seeking? Should Frances put aside her doubts and immerse herself in everything Tranquillum House has to offer – or should she run while she still can?
It’s not long before every guest at Tranquillum House is asking exactly the same question.
Combining all of the hallmarks that have made her writing a go-to for anyone looking for wickedly smart, page-turning fiction that will make you laugh and gasp, Liane Moriarty’s Nine Perfect Strangers once again shows why she is a master of her craft.
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Wow. This book was both very similar to other Liane Moriarty books and at the same time incredibly different from anything she’s ever written. Despite the fact I had finished this book back in January, I’m STILL debating with myself whether I liked it or not.
In true Moriarty fashion, this book is about multiple lives and multiple viewpoints of people in middle-class suburbs. This book happens to have ten different viewpoints (way more that usual) and occurs at a health spa resort, run by a woman who is certifiably insane and a genius - Masha, a Russian immigrant who had been legally dead for a few minutes (due to her over-working nature) and miraculously came back. You’d think her near-death experience would make her relax a bit but instead, she runs her health spa in militant form. You WILL relax!
There’s Frances, a romance writer who’s latest books haven’t been doing so great. She’s at the resort to get over a romance that had turned sour… because the man had been a catfisher. Then there’s the Marconi family who look perfect on the outside with their athletic bodies, but are internally reeling from the suicide of their son, who happened to be survived by a twin sister. Ben and Jessica are a young newlywed couple who won the lottery and had their lives fall apart because of it. They’re joined by Lars, a successful divorce attorney driven by the memories of his father leaving him (and escaping wanting to have a kid with his husband). Tony is a former Aussie-rules footballer who’s having trouble adjusting to normal life after his divorce. Finally, there’s Carmel who’s husband left her for a younger, prettier woman and now wants to just lose some weight and look great (despite pretty much everyone in the book thinking there was nothing wrong with her weight).
This book is interesting because Liane Moriarty writes about feelings that I think we’re all familiar with (who can’t sympathize with Carmel?) but also talks about lives I’m unfamiliar with in a way that makes me completely understand them (like Frances). Moriarty is really good at writing sympathetic characters which is what carried the book for me, even when I wasn’t completely on board with the absolutely bonkers plot. I gave this book four out of five stars on Goodreads because I appreciate good writing above all.