must-read: all the light we cannot see

Hitler Youth

“Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.” 

For our Greatest Generation, the Second World War was absolutely defining.  Life, culture, and innocence were lost on a scale so grand that it is a wonder to know that anything survived at all.

My own grandmother and her parents left Paris in 1939, never to return.  I often think about how different her life would have been, had they stayed.  But despite spending the last 76 years tucked safely away in American suburbia, the injustice wreaked on her homeland still boils in her blood.

Marie-Laure, the young, blind protagonist of Anthony Doerr’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, All the Light We Cannot See, also flees Paris on the eve of the Nazi invasion, with only her father, her cane, and a 133-carat diamond.

 All the Light we Cannot See, Anthony Doerr

The stories of Marie-Laure and her newfound family persevering within the ancient, sea-sprayed ramparts of Saint-Malo; of Werner and Jutta, towheaded, precocious orphans yearning to escape their colorless German coal town and entranced by a mysterious children’s radio program; of a dying sergeant major hell-bent on claiming the world’s treasures for his führer; of stargazing Hitler Youth, and resistant bakers’ wives, and old and young lives severed by violence; all intertwine in a tapestry of language, love, and light that will leave you wishing Doerr had written just one more beautiful chapter.

As the war’s last survivors approach the twilight of their years, this book is an enchanting reminder of all that they lost, and all that we continue to live for.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.  Happy reading!

outlander… & travel guide preview

I’m a few chapters into Voyager, the third book in Diana Gabaldon‘s fabulous “Big, Fat Historical Fiction” series, Outlander.

You may have read the books or seen the TV adaptation on Starz, or maybe you’ve never heard of any of it.  I hadn’t until about a year ago, when I finally took the advice of a good friend and world-class bookworm to start reading this series immediately.

when you finish the first book, you can watch these beautiful people on the show. win-win!
when you finish the book (because I know you read the book first, right?), you can watch these beautiful people on the show. win-win!

Thank goodness I listened.  I am a huge fan of historical fiction (I studied history in grad school, after all) and can’t get enough of adventurous, romantic books set in the past, from Atonement to my childhood favorite, Catherine, Called Birdy.  I instantly fell for Gabaldon’s fantastic writing and interesting characters, and devoured the (quite hefty) book in days.

So if you’re a sucker for Scotland, strong female leads, or (in Gabaldon’s words) “history, warfare, medicine, sex [author’s note: lots of really excellent sex], violence, spirituality, honor, betrayal, vengeance, hope and despair…voyages of daring, journeys of both body and soul,” you simply must pick up Outlander this instant.

All this swashbuckling Scottishness has had me 1) sipping a little too much scotch while feverishly flipping pages and 2) missing Scotland quite terribly.  So stay tuned for a travel guide on the timeless, romantic, and incredibly freezing capital of Scotland: Edinburgh.
Edinburgh castle

(Seriously, Outlander is only $1.99 on Kindle.  Get on with it, will ye?)