Summer 2015 has been very busy at Chestnut Cottage! With a new puppy, a party for the governor, lots of trips to the lakehouse , and keeping up the garden, squeezing in time to read has been a real challenge! One of my favorite times of the year and of the day is the late afternoon in summer. With a cool breeze blowing, all I want to do is take a good book and a chilled glass of champagne and head for the front porch. And in the last few weeks, I have done just that… with a great book under one arm and Duncan MacDuff under the other. A wonderful client who knows my reading habits recommended a book to me earlier in the summer and I knew that it was probably a “must read”. And indeed it turned out to be just that! ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE, by Anthony Doerr is one of the most magnificent books I have ever read.
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, this instant New York Times bestseller kept me away from gardening, cooking, and almost away from my design business! I looked forward each day to getting out on the front porch with this book. It is 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 with her father in Paris where he works as the master of the locks at the Museum of Natural History. When Marie-Laure is six, she goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and she and her father flee to the walled city 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, an orphan named Werner grows up with his younger sister and both are enchanted by a crude radio they find in the trash. Werner is an extremely bright child and becomes an expert at building and fixing radio equipment. This ability wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth. Werner travels through the heart of the war and finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.
In reading this novel, I became very interested in the walled city of Saint-Malo, its location and its history.
Image- APPSM Bernard Henry
Saint-Malo is the brightest jewel of the emerald coast of Brittany in northwestern France on the English channel. Historically, it is known for pirates and a fierce sense of independence. The city was almost completely destroyed by fire in August 1944 by American and British bombers as it was occupied by Nazi troops.
The city was re-built between 1948 and 1960 and is a major tourist destination today. Saint-Malo has one of the highest concentration of restaurants in Europe and is world famous for its oysters. That alone makes for an interesting destination.
This novel was at times very disturbing for me, always moving and a testament that against all odds, people really try to be good to one another. It is beautifully written, dazzling, and so keenly explores the beauty of the laws of nature. Among all the sufferings of war, this is a compelling and uplifting novel and I highly recommend it for your “collected library”.
I must confess that this book did keep me out of the garden for several days, but the garden did fine without me…
Stargazer lilies…dahlias…and one last foxglove of the season.
So I suppose there really isn’t a thing wrong with sitting on the front porch with a gentle breeze, a great book, a great glass of champagne, and a new puppy that is really settling in! But now it is back to the weeding, the dead heading, the trimming…..