All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See

Winner of the Pulitzer PrizeFrom the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the beautiful, stunningly ambitious instant New York Times bestseller 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 near the Museum of Natural Histo...

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Title:All the Light We Cannot See
Author:Anthony Doerr
Rating:
ISBN:1476746583
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Hardcover
Number of Pages:530 pages

All the Light We Cannot See Reviews

  • Melanie
    Oct 17, 2013

    I always thought, or imagined, that there were these invisible lines trembling in our wake, outlining our trajectories through life, throbbing with electric energy. Lines that sometimes cross one other, or follow in parallel ellipses without ever touching, or meet up for one brief moment and then part. A universe of lines crisscrossing in the void.

    Anthony Doerr's astonishing new novel "All The Light We Cannot See" follows the complex arcs of two such invisible lines through the lives of Werner P

    I always thought, or imagined, that there were these invisible lines trembling in our wake, outlining our trajectories through life, throbbing with electric energy. Lines that sometimes cross one other, or follow in parallel ellipses without ever touching, or meet up for one brief moment and then part. A universe of lines crisscrossing in the void.

    Anthony Doerr's astonishing new novel "All The Light We Cannot See" follows the complex arcs of two such invisible lines through the lives of Werner Pfennig, an orphan boy in pre-World War II Germany and Marie-Laure Leblanc, a blind girl living in Paris with her father. Through riveting flash forwards and flash backs, the novel charters the course of their lives as they struggle to find out wether it is possible to really

    your life when it is swallowed by the black holes of history. One is driven by a deep love of science while the other is inhabited by the power of books. In the midst of the rise of German fascism and the birth of the French Resistance, how does youth manage to stay true to its essence?

    A war story, a coming-of-age story, a philosophical fable, this is a novel that constantly oscillates between the moral uncertainties of life and the chiselled precision of the natural world that surrounds us. Between the political morass of war and the stupendous beauty of organisms, the ocean, the human brain.

    The language is so fantastically precise - Anthony Doerr does things with verbs that make entire paragraphs sing - that the visual component of this book is quite astounding.

    In the end, what this novel illuminates is the miraculous impact that seminal events have on the rest of our lives, whether it be the magic of radio broadcasts on the mysteries of science or the extraordinary adventures of Jules Verne's "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea".

    A deeply moving and enthralling work that echoes the power of early impressions on the building of a self, such as the philosopher Simon Critchley recently evoked so beautifully in a stunning essay published in The New York Times entitled "The Dangers of Certainty":

    Masterful.

  • Chrissie
    Oct 20, 2013

    Why write a review if I am such an atypical reader?

    I feel most readers will not react as I have, but isn’t it important that all views are voiced?

    All readers must agree that the flipping back and forth between different time periods makes this book more confusing. I believe it must be said loudly and clearly that the current fascination with multiple threads and time shifts is only acceptable when they add something to the story, when employment of such

    the

    Why write a review if I am such an atypical reader?

    I feel most readers will not react as I have, but isn’t it important that all views are voiced?

    All readers must agree that the flipping back and forth between different time periods makes this book more confusing. I believe it must be said loudly and clearly that the current fascination with multiple threads and time shifts is only acceptable when they add something to the story, when employment of such

    the story. In this book they do not improve the story. Perhaps jumping from one scene to another can increase suspense, but must one also flip back and forth in time? In addition, more and more books are made for audios, and this is not helpful when you cannot flip back to see where you are. Finally, time switches unnecessarily lengthen the novel.

    Secondly, be aware when you choose this book that the book is not only about WW2 but also a diamond that some of the characters, quite a few in fact, believe has magical powers. Those who possess the stone will not die, but people around that person will come to misfortune. This is all stated in one of the very first chapters; it is not a spoiler. This aspect of the book turns the story into a mystery novel. Where is the gem? Who has it? The result is that you have a heavy dose of fantasy woven into a book of historical fiction. I have trouble with both fantasy and mystery novels. Maybe you love them. (I would have preferred that the diamond was woven into the story as one of the objects stolen by the Nazis.)

    Let's look at how the book portrays WW2. It is set primarily in Brittany, France, and Germany and a little bit in Russia and Vienna. Its primary focus is about what warfare does to people, not the leaders, but normal people. I liked that you saw into the heads and felt the emotions of both Germans and French. Some of the Germans are evil but you also come to understand how living in those times shaped you. To stand up against the Nazi regime was almost impossible. There are some who try. These events are gripping. You also get the feel of life in Brittany versus Paris. They are not the same. I enjoyed the feel of the air, the wind in my face and the salty tang on my lips in St. Malo. I do wonder to what extent my appreciation of Brittany as a place is more due to my own time there or the author's writing. Am I remembering my own experiences, or am I seeing it from the words of the author? I am unsure about this.

    In any case, I was very disturbed by the blend of fantasy with gripping WW2 events.

    The events of WW2 are those portrayed in every book. If you have read about WW2 in numerous other books of fiction or non-fiction you will not get much new. Rape by Russians felt like the author had to include this simply so it could be to be togged off his checklist. I do think the book moves the reader on an emotional level. You get terribly angry and shocked, and this is achieved through the author's writing, his excellent prose.

    And this is what saves the book – its prose. The descriptions of things and places, the particular grip of a hand, movement of a body and what characters say. Very good writing. Beautiful writing. Sometimes you laugh, sometimes you feel that wind on your skin or the touch of a shell against your fingertips or smile at the oh so recognizable words of a child. Children often see far more than adults, but they also talk in a clear, simple manner. What they say is to the point - could that diamond be thrown away? Of course not. As remarked by one of the French children, "Who is going to chuck into the Seine a stone worth several Eiffel Towers?" Even if the gem has dangerous powers!

    People love reading about kids and one of them here is blind. Who wouldn't be moved by such!

    The narration by Zach Appelman didn't add much, but neither did it terribly detract from the story. I appreciated how he read some lines with a beat, a rhythm which matched the cadence of the author's words. Pauses were well placed. French pronunciation was lacking.

    Oh my, once I got going I told you what I felt. I believe this book will be popular, and many will like it, but it was just OK for me.

  • Dem
    Jan 11, 2014

    I enjoyed this novel by Anthony Doerr and yet when I was nearing the end I couldn't help feel a a sense of relief to have finished the book.

    I enjoy historical fiction and really looked forward to this novel by Anthony Doerr as it was set in a time frame that that really interests me. Because I read quite a lot of novels set around World War Two I love the fact that the author took a a slightly different path with his storytelling and that is what drew me to this novel.

    I loved the characters of M

    I enjoyed this novel by Anthony Doerr and yet when I was nearing the end I couldn't help feel a a sense of relief to have finished the book.

    I enjoy historical fiction and really looked forward to this novel by Anthony Doerr as it was set in a time frame that that really interests me. Because I read quite a lot of novels set around World War Two I love the fact that the author took a a slightly different path with his storytelling and that is what drew me to this novel.

    I loved the characters of Marie-Laure LeBlanc and Werner Pfennig and the sense of time and setting of the novel. There is a slight magical element to the stroy which I am not a major fan of at the best of times but it works well in this book.

    I did however struggle with the structure and pace of the novel and this is the reason for me liking this novel and not loving it. I found the toing and froing between time frames a bit tedious and the chapters too short. Normally this isn't a problem for me but however in this book it took from my overall enjoyment of the story. It wasn't that I couldn't follow the plot but more that it became a chore for me and just when I was gelling with one time frame and character I was dragged kicking and screaming to another time frame and character and wished at times the author would just allow the story to flow and not chop and change.

    To sum up an interesting and worthwhile read and a book that will be enjoyed by historical fiction lovers and book clubs over the summer.

  • Jenna
    Mar 18, 2014

    It has been awhile since I have found a book that I wanted to read slowly so that I could soak in every detail in hopes that the last page seems to never come.

    When reading the synopsis of this novel, I never imagined that I would feel so connected to a book where one of the main characters is blind and the other a brilliant young German orphan who was chosen to attend a brutal military academy under Hitler's power using his innate engineering skills.

    This novel was so much more than the above st

    It has been awhile since I have found a book that I wanted to read slowly so that I could soak in every detail in hopes that the last page seems to never come.

    When reading the synopsis of this novel, I never imagined that I would feel so connected to a book where one of the main characters is blind and the other a brilliant young German orphan who was chosen to attend a brutal military academy under Hitler's power using his innate engineering skills.

    This novel was so much more than the above states. The idiosyncrasies of each individual character are so well defined and expressed in such ways that come across the page almost lyrically. I was invited into the pages and could not only imagine the atmosphere, but all of my senses were collectively enticed from the very first page until the last.

    I was so amazed with the way that the author was able to heighten all my senses in a way that I felt like I knew what it was like to be blind. In most well-written books you get of a sense of what the characters look like and follow them throughout the book almost as if you are on a voyage, but with this novel, I could imagine what it was like to be in Marie-Laure's shoes. The descriptives were so beautifully intricate that I could imagine the atmosphere through touch and sound. It was amazing, really.

    There were so many different aspects of the book that are lived out in separate moments and in different countries that find a way to unite in the end. What impressed me most was that I could have never predicted the outcome. It was as though all cliches were off the table and real life was set in motion. Life outside of books can be very messy and the author stayed true to life but in a magical and symbolic way.

    I have said in other reviews that just when I think that I have read my last book centered around the Second World War, another seems to pop up. I should emphasize that this book created an image of war in a way that I have never imagined before. I truly got a sense of what it must have been like for children who lived a happy life and then suddenly were on curfew and barely had food to eat. It also showed the side of young children who are basically brainwashed by Nazi leaders and made into animals who seem to make choices that they normally wouldn't in order to survive. And by survive, I mean dodging severe abuse by their own colleagues.

    This book may haunt me for some time. I can't express enough how beautifully written the pages are. I highly recommend this read as it is my favorite so far for 2014.

  • Becky
    May 06, 2014

    I'm sure this is going to mark me as a literary dud, but for all the brilliant reviews of this book? I couldn't really get into it.

    The book revolves around Marie-Laure, a blind girl who lives with her father. Her father is the locksmith at the Paris Museum of Natural History, and Marie is raised wholly in the museum and at home. Marie has a semi-idyllic childhood until the Nazi's invade Paris and she and her father have to flee to another city, where a reclusive uncle lives. Unknown to Marie, he

    I'm sure this is going to mark me as a literary dud, but for all the brilliant reviews of this book? I couldn't really get into it.

    The book revolves around Marie-Laure, a blind girl who lives with her father. Her father is the locksmith at the Paris Museum of Natural History, and Marie is raised wholly in the museum and at home. Marie has a semi-idyllic childhood until the Nazi's invade Paris and she and her father have to flee to another city, where a reclusive uncle lives. Unknown to Marie, her father is smuggling the world's most priceless jewel out of the city on behalf of the museum. Unfortunately for them, a German soldier is hot on the trail of the jewel, and will go to extreme lengths to find it.

    Werner is a German orphan who teaches himself everything to do with radios; after repairing a senior-ranking German officer's radio, he is given entry into a youth academy that trains young soldiers for Hitler's Army. He is then drafted to utilize his skills to find resistance armies who are using the radio - but Werner is no soldier and soon realizes the cost of his talent.

    I found the book somewhat plodding; like you were waiting for something important to happen...and waiting, and waiting, and waiting. Eventually Marie and Werner's stories collide - but only briefly and completely unsatisfactorily. I'm sure that's the point - that life is hardly satisfactory, but still. Parts of the book were very interesting - the last third probably kept my attention best. This wasn't a book that you can't put down though; very little tension (at least for me).

  • Maciek
    May 16, 2014

    This is a carefully constructed book which is bound to captivate a large audience and become very popular, and be blessed with many warm reviews - it was chosen by Goodreads members as the best historical fiction of 2014, and shortlisted for the National Book Award. There are multiple reasons for its success - but they are also the same reasons as to why I didn't enjoy it as much as I hoped I would.

    Anthony Doerr's

    follows the parallel lives of two protagonists - Marie

    This is a carefully constructed book which is bound to captivate a large audience and become very popular, and be blessed with many warm reviews - it was chosen by Goodreads members as the best historical fiction of 2014, and shortlisted for the National Book Award. There are multiple reasons for its success - but they are also the same reasons as to why I didn't enjoy it as much as I hoped I would.

    Anthony Doerr's

    follows the parallel lives of two protagonists - Marie-Laurie, a French girl and daughter of a master locksmith at the Natural History Museum in Paris; the other character is Werner Pfenning, a German boy growing up in the mining town of Zollverein. Their lives are drawn against the brewing conflict, which will soon engulf not only France and Germany, but most of the world - the second World War.

    Both Marie and Werner are sympathetic character for whom the reader can root for - the author has made sure of that. Marie-Laurie goes literally blind in the first or second chapter, and spends the beginning of the book becoming used to her new condition (mostly the help of her father, who designs elaborate puzzles for her to solve). Werner grows up in an industrial town hit by the depression, amidst the rise of the brownshirts; his only real companion is his sister, Jutta, and his only solace the radio - which Werner knows how to operate and fix instinctively, and to which they both listen at night.

    The Nazis eventually come to power and invade France, forcing Marie-Laurie and her father to flee to the northern coastal town of Saint-Malo, an ancient walled city which provides picturesque setting for much of the book. In Germany, Werner's skill with the radio catches the eye of a Nazi official who sends him to the breeding ground for Nazi youth, where he will be trained to become a member of the military and eventually sent to the front. At the same time, a much older Nazi official searches all over France for an almost mythical diamond all over France, and is dedicated to finding it.

    Doerr's chapters are short and readable, and often contain pleasant nuggets of prose which was obviously carefully thought-out. To maintain suspense, he switches both between perspectives and time periods: various parts of the book are set in different years, mostly non-chronologically, and are comprised of chapters alternating between different characters.

    The trouble with the book is that it's not very compelling, surprising, or illuminating. With Doerr's outline for the story - three characters, three different viewpoints - we know that their stories will eventually collide, but when they finally do it happens in a quick, unsatisfying way. Doerr's characters lack moral complexity which would make them properly engaging - Marie Laurie spends most of the book in hiding, which is understandable, but which also stops her from being forced to make important moral and ethical choices regarding her own survival. Werner is even more troubling - while he is troubled by brutality he witnesses at the Nazi school, he seems resigned to it. Werner neither openly embraces Nazism, nor condemns it - he's indifferent to the whole experience and role he plays. It's as if Doerr never gave Werner the opportunity to grow up, choosing instead to preserve the young boy, fascinated by radio - which goes contrary to what boys and children in general experience in any war, which instantly strips them of their childhoods forever. The subplot featuring Von Rumpel, the old Nazi who searches for the mystical diamond seems to be attached to the rest of the book for no reason except to move the plot forward - there's no complexity to his character at all, and develops exactly as expected.

    This is a book which looks as if it was designed to be read by younger readers - it's colorful setting, short chapters, switching points of narration will satisfy those with short attention spans, who require their story to be told quickly, engagingly, and not too demanding. I think all swearwords used in the book can be counted on the fingers of one hand; its language is very mellow and mild on obscenities. For a novel set during World War 2, it is a surprisingly tame book - murder and death cannot be escaped, but is downplayed as much as possible. One horrible instance of violence - which could have very well changed a character's perception on things - occurs essentially off screen, lowering possible impact it could have had on said character. This is World War 2, PG-13.

    is a carefully crafted and constructed book, which for me remains its greatest flaw - I could never stop seeing the author's own hand behind the scenes, which made characters act out events in certain way, obviously planned well ahead. It's a fantasy world populated with unreal people, who engage in a fantasy war - and is bound to appeal to hundreds of readers, because this is what they want and appreciate. Popular for one season or two, but unlikely to be remembered in a decade or more.

  • LeeAnne
    May 30, 2014

    This book has the most hauntingly beautiful prose I've ever read. It's brimming with rich details that fill all five senses simultaneously. It's full of beautiful metaphors that paint gorgeous images. I didn't want this book to end, but I couldn't put it down.

    "In August 1944 the historic walled city of

    the brightest jewel of the Emerald Coast of Brittany, France was almost destroyed by fire....Of the 865 buildings within the walls, only 18

    This book has the most hauntingly beautiful prose I've ever read. It's brimming with rich details that fill all five senses simultaneously. It's full of beautiful metaphors that paint gorgeous images. I didn't want this book to end, but I couldn't put it down.

    "In August 1944 the historic walled city of

    the brightest jewel of the Emerald Coast of Brittany, France was almost destroyed by fire....Of the 865 buildings within the walls, only 182 remained standing and all were damaged to some degree." -Philip Beck

    _____________________________________

    This book is really two parallel stories set during World War II, about two children, growing up in two different countries. The poetic narration moves back and forth in both time and place, between the two main characters.

    In Nazi Germany, a young orphan boy named Werner lives in a sparse children’s home with his young sister. He is exceptionally bright and curious with a knack for fixing radios. He fixes one old radio and becomes spellbound by a nightly science program broadcast from France. His talents in math and science win him a coveted spot in a nightmarish Hitler Youth Academy. This is his only chance of escape from a grim life working in the same deadly coal mines that killed his father.

    In Paris, France there is a shy, freckled redhead named Marie-Laure. She is intuitive, clever and sensitive. She lives with her locksmith father who works at a museum. When she goes blind from a degenerative disease at the age of six, her father builds a detailed miniature model of their neighborhood, so she can memorize every street, building and corner by tracing the model with her nimble fingers. When the Germans attack Paris she and her father must flee to the coastal town of Saint-Malo to live with a great-uncle who lives in a tall, storied house next to a sea wall.

    This story is suspenseful but read it slowly, so you can savor every word, unhurried.

    The author explains in his own words: "The title is a reference first and foremost to all the light we literally cannot see: that is, the wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum that are beyond the ability of human eyes to detect (radio waves, of course, being the most relevant). It’s also a metaphorical suggestion that there are countless invisible stories still buried within World War II — that stories of ordinary children, for example, are a kind of light we do not typically see. Ultimately, the title is intended as a suggestion that we spend too much time focused on only a small slice of the spectrum of possibility." - Anthony Doerr

    Photos of Saint-Malo with quotes from the first few pages of this book:

    "At dusk they pour from the sky. They blow across the ramparts, turn cartwheels over rooftops, flutter into the ravines between houses. Entire streets swirl with them, flashing white against the cobbles. "Urgent message to the inhabitants of this town," they say. "Depart immediately to open country." The tide climbs. The moon hangs small and yellow and gibbous. On the rooftops of beachfront hotels to the east, and in the gardens behind them, a half-dozen American artillery units drop incendiary rounds into the mouths of mortars."

    "Saint Malo: Water surrounds the city on four sides. Its link to the rest of France is tenuous: a causeway, a bridge, a spit of sand. We are Malouins first, say the people of Saint-Malo. Bretons next. French if there’s anything left over. In stormy light, its granite glows blue. At the highest tides, the sea creeps into basements at the very center of town. At the lowest tides, the barnacled ribs of a thousand shipwrecks stick out above the sea. For three thousand years, this little promontory has known sieges. But never like this."

    "The Girl

    In a corner of the city, inside a tall, narrow house at Number 4 rue Vauborel, on the sixth and highest floor, a sightless sixteen-year-old named Marie-Laure LeBlanc kneels over a low table covered entirely with a model. The model is a miniature of the city she kneels within,and contains scale replicas of the hundreds of houses and shops and hotels within its walls. There’s the cathedral with its perforated spire, and the bulky old Château de Saint-Malo, and row after row of sea-side mansions studded with chimneys. A slender wooden jetty arcs out from a beach called the Plage du Môle; a delicate, reticulated atrium vaults over the seafood market; minute benches, the smallest no larger than apple seeds, dot the tiny public squares.

    Marie-Laure runs her fingertips along the centimeter-wide para-pet crowning the ramparts, drawing an uneven star shape around the entire model. She finds the opening atop the walls where four ceremonial cannons point to sea."

    “Now it seems there are only shadows and silence. Silence is the fruit of the occupation; it hangs in branches, seeps from gutters…So many windows are dark. It’s as if the city has become a library of books in an unknown language, the houses great shelves of illegible volumes, the lamps all extinguished.” -- All The Light We cannot See

  • Emily May
    Dec 02, 2014

    I'm going to be honest - love for this book didn't hit me straight away. In fact, my first attempt to read it last year ended with me putting it aside and going to find something easier, lighter and less descriptive to read. I know - meh, what a quitter.

    But

    . Both in the literal sense - the physical world of 1940s Paris/Germany - and the metaphoric

    I'm going to be honest - love for this book didn't hit me straight away. In fact, my first attempt to read it last year ended with me putting it aside and going to find something easier, lighter and less descriptive to read. I know - meh, what a quitter.

    But

    . Both in the literal sense - the physical world of 1940s Paris/Germany - and the metaphorical. It's woven with scientific and philosophical references to light, to seeing and not seeing, and the differences between the two. It's a beautiful work of genius, but it does get a little dense at times; the prose bloated by details.

    However, when we get into the meat of this WWII novel, it's also the harrowing story of a childhood torn apart by war. It's about Parisian Marie-Laure who has been blind since she was six years old, and a German orphan called Werner who finds himself at the centre of the Hitler Youth. Both of their stories are told with sensitivity and sympathy, each one forced down a path by their personal circumstances and by that destructive monster - war.

    I think this is the kind of book you will never appreciate if you stop too soon - I learned that lesson. From the first to last page, there is a running theme of interconnectedness, of invisible lines running parallel to one another and sometimes, just sometimes, crossing in the strangest of ways. These two lives we are introduced to seem to be worlds apart, and yet they come together and influence one another. It was this, more than the predictably awful tale of war, that made me feel quite emotional.

    That's how I would describe it. From the chillingly beautiful prose, to the realization of what the title actually means: that underneath the surface of history, there is light - and stories - that have not been seen; that have gone untold. Scientifically, we only see a small portion of the electromagnetic spectrum; historically, we only see a small portion of the story.

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  • Rick Riordan
    Jul 24, 2015

    Adult fiction

    This book is getting a lot of well-deserved attention for its unique story and its beautiful writing. It starts late in World War II, as the Allies begin shelling the French city of Saint-Malo to drive out the remaining Nazi troops. Our two main characters are Marie Laure, a blind French girl who fled here with her uncle from Paris, and Werner, a radio expert in the German army who is stuck in the city when the attack begins. We jump back and forth in time, and between the two char

    Adult fiction

    This book is getting a lot of well-deserved attention for its unique story and its beautiful writing. It starts late in World War II, as the Allies begin shelling the French city of Saint-Malo to drive out the remaining Nazi troops. Our two main characters are Marie Laure, a blind French girl who fled here with her uncle from Paris, and Werner, a radio expert in the German army who is stuck in the city when the attack begins. We jump back and forth in time, and between the two characters’ perspectives to see how both young people were brought to this place.

    If you like straight-ahead, linear, plot-driven war novels, this is not the book for you. It does have a central plot that brings the two characters together – a mystery about a possibly magic gem hunted by an evil, terminally ill Nazi officer – but that is almost beside the point. In fact it feels like something added after the fact, as if an editor said, “You know, what you need is . . .” That plot, and the way it resolves, strongly echoes the mystery in the movie Titanic.

    What kept me turning pages, rather, were the characters’ lives and the short, well-crafted scenes. Doerr’s writing is elegant and evocative. Reading it is like eating the best gelato – so decadent you are sure you’ll put on weight. He treats Marie Laure and Werner with equal empathy, and their interaction – when they finally meet – is not your stereotypical wartime love story. It is much better, much more bittersweet and haunting.

    It took me about fifty pages to really get into the book and figure out the structure, but once I did, I couldn’t stop.

  • Catriona (LittleBookOwl)
    Jun 11, 2016

    This book was so beautiful and haunting. I fell in love with so many of the characters, and loved how their lives were weaved together. Knowing the time period this was set in, I knew the ending would hurt. And it did, though I didn't shed as many tears as I expected.

    The writing was incredible, the descriptions so vivid. It did a superb job of showing the reader how the characters felt through their actions, rather than telling. Whilst the short chapters (on average 1.5 pages) helped to make thi

    This book was so beautiful and haunting. I fell in love with so many of the characters, and loved how their lives were weaved together. Knowing the time period this was set in, I knew the ending would hurt. And it did, though I didn't shed as many tears as I expected.

    The writing was incredible, the descriptions so vivid. It did a superb job of showing the reader how the characters felt through their actions, rather than telling. Whilst the short chapters (on average 1.5 pages) helped to make this read a little quicker, it was still quite a slow book. I really enjoyed being able to savour it and get to know the characters, however there were some points where it felt a little

    dense and slow.