In rich detail and poetic prose, Doerr’s latest work traces the paths of a blind French girl and a German boy during World War II, and how those paths intertwine and finally collide. Sherra Babcock, vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education, said Doerr’s deft approach to historical fiction made his book a natural selection for the week on Redefining Europe.
“World War II was so defining for Europe, and people will read this book and it will take them back to that period, without having to go back historically,” she said. “It puts you in the place.”
Doerr, a faculty member at the 2013 Chautauqua Writers’ Festival and author of the 2005 CLSC selection About Grace, was confirmed as a CLSC author for next summer shortly after Bryant Day Aug. 16.
Babcock called All the Light We Cannot See “a perfect book” for the week not just because of Doerr’s exhaustive research into the period and minutiae of the characters lives — from the inner workers of radio transistors, to seashells and the streets of Saint-Malo — but because of the characters themselves.
“Through these characters, we see the French Resistance, and the early part of the German build-up; it gives you those two really sharp divisions through a very human lens,” she said. “There are so many layers of beauty to this, and the characters were so brilliantly imagined.”
In a week on post-modern Europe and its future, Babcock said any book about contemporary Europe could potentially take the definition of the week out of Chautauqua’s hands. But with All The Light We Cannot See, readers will be able to reflect on a key part of Europe’s past.
“To some extent, some of us don’t even really think about Europe without thinking about World War II, and this is such a fresh approach to the subject,” Babcock said. “It’s a good place to be.”
The books announced on Bryant Day were “Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys and the Dawn of a New America” by Gilbert King; “Native Speaker” by Chang-rae Lee; and “Someone” by Alice McDermott.