All The Light We Cannot See

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All The Light We Cannot See Photo: Simon & SchusterI’ve been tempted by All The Light We Cannot See a few times over the past couple months, and with an upcoming trip to the UK (a pair of nine-hour flights, plus several train trips), I finally caved and loaded it up on my Kindle.

After a couple of months of very sporadic reading (ultraheavy education theory books and ultralight wedding magazines) during my first-ever teaching contract this spring, I felt I was due a good novel, and this striking piece of fiction fit the bill.

It’s truly beautiful storytelling (it won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction). One day, if I can write something half as good, I’ll be a very happy lady. There are two parallel storylines at play here. A young blind girl and her father, a museum locksmith, flee Nazi-occupied Paris in 1940. Meanwhile, an orphaned German boy develops a fascination with radios, which earns him a place among the Nazi military elite.

The pace of the plot is pretty much perfect, and by the time the two storylines converge, I couldn’t put the book down. Coincidentally, I started the novel as Matt and I travelled through Manchester, where we spent a few hours at the Imperial War Museum North, which has a comprehensive chronological timeline display of the impact of both world wars on everyday people. I finished it right after we arrived in London, the morning of our visit to the Imperial War Museum London, an entirely different experience with its comprehensive, stunning and sobering Holocaust exhibition. Talk about being in the right place at the right time. The whole experience made for very interesting – and very thoughtful – reading.

There’s lots to love about All The Light We Cannot See – lyrical, descriptive writing, achingly sympathetic characters, beautifully-imagined settings and the magic of radio. It stayed with me for days.

Sharp Objects

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Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn (Photo Credit: Random House)Over the holidays, my brother’s girlfriend Cara tore through Sharp Objects, and then left it for me.

I loved Gone Girl, and she said it was a quick read, so I took her up on her offer. She was right! I polished it off on a couple of busy nights over the Christmas break, although the subject matter may not make it the best before-bed read. It’s a murder mystery, a reporter story and a thriller all in one.

I really liked this one. Like Gone Girl, the themes are adult and dark, and it does have a decent twist (although it wasn’t a WAIT, WHAT? twist like Gone Girl’s. Have you read it? If you haven’t, and you haven’t seen the film, you really should. It’s great). I predicted the ending, but not the pathway that Gillian Flynn took to get there, so it was still a worthwhile mystery. Cara and I both work in different branches of the journalism industry, and it was nice to see a female reporter as a protagonist, although Camille Preaker’s mental instability would likely be a real-life roadblock. You have to be made out of tough stuff to work as a reporter (which is why I mainly stick to lifestyle work these days).

One bad personal note – I ate a pomegranate and it dripped all over the book, so it looks like I either killed someone while reading it, or had a very bad accident. So I’m sorry, Cara. I owe you a book. I really enjoyed reading Sharp Objects, and it was quick and easy over the holidays. It’s no Gone Girl, but it’s worth a look.

Allegiant

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Allegiant by Veronica Roth (Photo: HarperCollins)I wanted to jump on the Allegiant bandwagon right away for a few reasons.

For starters, I got hooked on the Divergent trilogy earlier this year when Courtney made it our first-ever book club pick and I feel like I’ve been waiting AGES for a new one – I’ve been after a conclusion to the question mark middle child that was Insurgent since I read it back in May.

Also, people are talking about Allegiant, and there’s nothing I like less than feeling like the teenage literati are more plugged in than I am. (Oh, who am I kidding? I’m never going to be able to keep pace with the teenage literati. I just wanted to finish the series so I can talk about it with the kids who come into the bookstore where I work.)

Elizabeth, my lovely 18-year-old neighbour and former babysitting charge who lent me the first two Divergent books, is now grown up and away at university, so I had to fend for myself when finding a copy of this one. I eventually decided to Kindle it, because it doesn’t really make sense to buy the third book of a trilogy and display it on a shelf without its two companions. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like there’s something weird about that.

Anyway, there’s not a lot to say about Allegiant without completely ruining the story. There are a couple of completely mind-bending twists in there, including fresh details about the origins of the world and the five factions, Tris’s genetics and information about what lies beyond the walls of the city. There’s also a shift in the narrative structure from being completely Tris-narrated to blending the voices of Tris and Four, which is an interesting technique that I haven’t seen since I read Eleanor & Park earlier this year (Jodi Picoult is another example of an author that writes from multiple perspectives really effectively).

I’m not going to lie and say I LOVED the ending, because I didn’t. I thought it was strange and sad and a little bit over the top. But I also wasn’t disappointed in it in the same way that I was disappointed when I came to the end of Mockingjay and Katniss and Peeta were reduced to shells of their vibrant former selves. On the whole, I think The Hunger Games was a more enjoyable trilogy, but Divergent was probably more consistent in terms of character progression.