As many of you know, I started a project years ago to read all the Pulitzer Prize-winning novels. I managed to do so (and then took a shower to wash off all the white men goo all over me) and in an effort to keep up on that project, I read last year’s winner, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.
As with most Pulitzer winners, this was a Big Book. You know, the type where you start reading and you’re like, “Oh, it’s a Big Serious Book.” That isn’t necessarily a negative but it does put me immediately on the defensive like, “Damn, I better enjoy, or at least ‘get’ this book – otherwise I might be a big dumb dumb!”
I did “get” the book and I also enjoyed it. Whew! No big dumb dumb here! It is a story of numerous people doing the very best they can during Germany’s occupation of Paris in World War II. We see the world through the eyes of the characters everyone would be sympathetic with – the victims of the Germans – but we also see the world through the eyes of SS Officers, none of whom joined because they wanted to kill anyone. They had no idea what they were getting into and they were simply doing what they had to do to avoid hard labor and / or being killed. I’m not excusing anyone’s actions but I do think it’s useful to look at why people do things and not just at the things they do. These are human beings action in ways human beings are programmed to act.
One of the main characters was a blind girl and I fucking loved how capable she was and that the author didn’t fall back on any shitty tropes about people with disabilities not being able to function in society.
So, yes, I liked this book but I didn’t love it. I ended up giving it four stars because it’s certainly not a three-star book but it was pretty far away from being a four-star book for me. It bogged down a bit in the middle and just didn’t flow as well as I would have liked to see. Overall, I get why it won the Pulitzer but in the end it just made me glad I’m not trudging through Pulitzers anymore.