Top positive review
Reading this novel will make you a better writer
Reviewed in the United States on September 28, 2018
Want to write masterfully? Read masterful writing. For example, open a Doerr—something written by Anthony Doerr, that is. His "All the Light We Cannot See" is the opposite of a page turner. What would you call that … a page lingerer, maybe? As I read this story, over and over I set aside my curiosity about what happens next to slow down, reread, and savor the language.
For one thing, Doerr’s verbs nail the action in arresting ways. Bombers “shed” altitude. Pigeons “cataract” down a cathedral spire and “wheel out” over the sea. Teacups “drift” off shelves, and paintings “slip” off nails. Dread “trundles” up from the blind girl’s gut. Car horns “bleat.” Snowflakes “tick and patter” through trees.
This prose begs to be read aloud or at least heard by your inner ear. Consider these snippets:
“…the low moonlit lumps of islands ranged along the horizon.” (Oh, the consonance—all those lush l’s, not to mention the two soft m’s woven in: “moonlit lumps”!)
“…the last unevacuated townspeople wake, groan, sigh. Spinsters, prostitutes, men over sixty. Procrastinators, collaborators, disbelievers, drunks. Nuns of every order. The poor. The stubborn. The blind.” (Oh, the rhythm—you can practically see the conductor’s baton twitching to the beat of “wake, groan, sigh.” My toe is tapping at the next line: “Spinsters, prostitutes, men over sixty.” I’m clapping along as if to a jumprope chant by the time we get to “Procrastinators, collaborators, disbelievers, drunks. Nuns of very order…”)
”…each storm drain, park bench, and hydrant…” (Each DAAH-dum, DAAH-dum, and DA-dum!)
“Cold fog hangs in the budding trees.” (Each of the first three words—“Cold” and “fog” and “hangs”—takes a full beat, slowing the sentence down, defying forward movement. It’s as if these three words themselves are hanging there—BOM BOM BOM—in the budding trees.)
No wonder this novel took me so long to read. I read it for the poetry.
Whether or not you read for this singular kind of pleasure, you’ll find this story a timely reminder of humanity during a time of inhumanity.
And you’ll write more masterfully for reading it.