So, Beth already wrote a real review of the Pulitzer Prize winning novel All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I also found it to be a beautiful novel. (And, I’m so impressed with us for reading an award-winning novel before it won its big award!) The Germans arrived in an undefended Paris on June 14th, 1940 and so I thought that today I’d say a little bit about my favorite part of this book.
One of the main characters, Marie-Laure, is a little blind girl who flees Paris with her father and goes to Saint Malo on the coast where she is left with her Uncle and Madame Manec. Marie-Laure’s Uncle is a bit of a recluse and for all kinds of reasons is not interested in getting involved in anything or opposing the Nazis or anyone occupying the town. He just wants to be in his room and maybe spend some time with his niece. Maybe.
With the occupation there are rations (“‘And these ridiculous shoe ration coupons,’ says Madame Ruelle, the baker’s wife. ‘Theo has number 3,501 and they haven’t even called 400!'”) and neighbors turning on neighbors for more electricity or extra food. The women that complain about things are only inconvenienced by the war; they won’t ever be sent to a battle field (and are unlikely to be rounded up for sedition or other crimes). But, they are against the war and against the occupation. Madame Manec points out to them that women make the world run. They sort the mail and fix the shoes and bake the bread that people eat. They could do something. Madame Manec isn’t proposing they do anything crazy, like make shoe bombs, but rather that they do small things. She proposes that they inconvenience the occupiers. She proposes that they do things to constantly remind them just how unwelcome in France they are.
And, most of the things they do in general would seem like pranks. They change roadsigns, they leave dog poop on the brothel steps, they send flowers to which a commander is allergic to the headquarters. They paint a stray dog in the colors of the French flag. They write pro-French slogans on currency. Later in the book this network of trouble making old ladies becomes very important to the French resistance in the book. But, it starts out as a group of old ladies in the kitchen who want to something but don’t think they can do anything big or important.
I loved this part of the book immensely. I loved the reminder that little things can be courageous.
This book was a gorgeous read and it was little details like the Old Ladies’ Resistance Club that made it so wonderful.