Where to Begin…All the Light We Cannot See

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February 17, 2018 by bradcharlesbeals

Short chapters.

Alternating characters and story lines.

One after another.

Kind of like these fragments.

Thought I might get annoyed.

But it worked.

Right to the very end.

For a novelist, one of the risks of this back and forth tandem narration is leaving the reader frustrated when one thread has to be dropped for a less interesting one. (When any two items — people, flowers, narrative passages — are presented side by side, one is usually more attractive than the other. It’s the complexity of both our universe and our sensibilities.)

The writer can alleviate this imbalance by creating two narratives that both rely on connections and mutual dependence to develop. The quicker (and deeper) that development happens, the quicker the reader will stop reading two separate threads and begin reading ONE story.

It’s easier said than done, but this author makes the doing of it look pretty easy. The elements of great story telling — character, setting, pace, rhythm, tension — are challenging enough just in linear form, but Doerr delivers them through a call and response parallel narration that works extremely well and makes for a uniquely satisfying reading experience.

All the Light We Cannot See is not just a postmodern attempt at vaguely connected narration; rather, it is simply ONE great story told from two angles.

Oh, and it won a Pulitzer.

[I read the whole book, so I threw out the usual page-one hook for this post.]

 

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