"All the Light We Cannot See" by Anthony Doerr, winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
Doerr's reaction to winning the Pulitzer win
"It's hard to think that I really belong on that list. I really haven't had a chance to understand what this means. It's so overwhelming."
~ Anthony Doerr
Interview with Anthony Doerr
Nice guys finish last, right? Not in this case. The literary community's reaction to Anthony Doerr's Pulitzer Prize win is "How cool that the nicest man I've ever met wins a Pulitzer." So one of it's own wins one of the highest literary honors in the world.
One of my favorite novels I have read, All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr, has won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction it was announced yesterday, April 20, 2015. This book is right up there with The Book Thief, another one of my favorites.
The Pulitzer Prize goes to "distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life." Although this novel does not deal with American life per se it is nonetheless worthy of the Pulitzer Prize.
The Pulitzer Prizes are in their 99th year and are awarded by Columbia University School of Journalism.
Doerr was in Paris eating ice cream at home with his twin boys when he heard the news of his win. It is fitting that he was in Paris promoting his novel as it takes place in Paris and Saint Malo, France.
The Pulitizer Prize judging committee has called the novel, "an imaginative and intricate novel which is written in short, elegant chapters that explore human nature and the contradicting power of technology."
The novel takes place during the German occupation of France during WWII. Technology?you are asking? The technology of radio during WWII and its uses are explored in this novel.
I have always had an interest and love of WWII stories and novels and I have written some WWII short stories myself. I think, like Doerr, I am drawn to the darkness of the times and the gradual dawning of the light by the end of the war.
The novel is the story of Marie, a young French girl, who goes blind at the age of six and who flees with her father from German occupied Paris to Saint Malo. Her father, so understanding of her blindness, constructs miniature models of the cities of Paris and Saint Malo, so that through touch she is able to learn and then to navigate both cities on her own. Marie certainly is not a timid girl because of this. She confidently is able to get around both cities.
Marie's story becomes intertwined with that of Werner, a German soldier, whose genius with radios makes him an expert tracker of the French resistance movement, and by the end of the novel ends up in Saint Malo where Marie is.
The development of the radio and its uses during WWII was a fascination of Doerr's and he incorporated his fascination into the novel.
The book is organized into short chapters that jump back and forth between his two story lines; that of Marie, and that of Werner. Both of the characters are enveloped in darkness: Marie is trapped in blindness and Werner is trapped in the darkness of Nazism.
Marie reads her stories over the radio in Saint Malo which Werner is able to pick up on his radio, and through her stories, she brings light into Werner's dark world and he begins to question his loyalty to the Nazi's.
The novel has been a runaway success and has spent forty-nine weeks on the NYTimes Best Seller list. There are an estimated 1.6 million copies (both hardcover and e-Books) in circulation.
Doerr said he preferred to write short chapters in his novel because, "I just didn't want to lead the reader away from either one of the narratives for long."
That structure certainly helped with the book's success. It is a very graceful read.
The publisher, Scribner, will be printing an additional one hundred thousand copies since the announcement of the Pulitzer Prize yesterday.
Critics embraced All the Light We Cannot See after its release in May 2014. As readers discovered the novel, it grew in popularity. It landed on the NYTimes Best Seller list in June 2014 and since then has been in the top ten for all these weeks.
The LA Times, has described the novel as "ambitious and majestic with bluntness or over dependence on heartbreak.
This novel was also a finalist for the National Book Award in November 2014 and was one of 1,400 novels submitted for the Pulitzer Prize.
Judging of the Pulitzer book entries is a two-fold effort: first, a nominating jury reads through the submitted books and second, the jury then puts forward the finalists to the Pulitzer board. There must be a majority on the board in agreement on the top prize. If not, no prize is given.
this novel is . . . a piece of luck for anyone with a long plane journey or a beach holiday ahead. It is such a page turner entirely absorbing: one of those books in which the talent of the storyteller surmounts stylistic inadequacies and ultimately defies one's better judgment.— Carmen Callil, reviewer for the Guardian
Goodreads Choice Awards Best Historical Fiction
Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Arts, U.S. and Canada (2010)
The Story Prize winner from Memory Wall (2011)
Finalist National Book Award for Fiction (2014)
Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (2015)
Anthony Doerr 1973 -
Anthony Doerr is an American author of novels and short stories and he has gained widespread recognition for his 2014 novel, All the Light We Cannot See.
Doerr grew up in Novelty, Ohio and attended nearby University School graduating from high school in 1991. He lived for a while in Cleveland, OH.
He earned a BA in history from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine graduating in 1995; and his MFA is from Bowling Green State University in Ohio.
He is married and the father of twin boys, eleven years old. In 2003 he moved to Boise, Idaho, his wife's hometown, and they have lived there ever since then.
He is believed to be Idaho's first official Pulitzer Prize for Fiction winner. Hemingway won a Pulitzer Prize for The Old Man and the Sea, but he did not live in Idaho until much later after his win.
It took Doerr ten years to complete his novel and he worked on and agonized over All the Light We Cannot See in his downtown Boise office over the decade.
He took several breaks from writing his novel to write short stories. Memory Wall, won The Story Prize in 2011 and The Deep won the London Times Story Prize in 2012.
He has published two short story collections, Shell Collector (2002) in which many of the stories take place in Africa and New Zealand where he has worked and lived. Memory Wall (2010) is another collection of his short stories.
Doerr also writes a column on science books for the Boston Globe and is a contributor to The Morning News, an on-line magazine.
From 2007 - 2010 he was writer-in-residence for the state of Idaho.
Today, he and his wife are raising their eleven year old twin boys in Boise. Doerr coaches flag football for his son's team and takes his boys skiing and on nature hikes from their backyard.
Anthony Doerr's writings
About Grace (2004)
All the Light We Cannot See (2014)
Short Story Collections:
The Shell Collector (2002)
Memory Wall (2010)
Four Seasons in Rome: On Twins, Insomnia and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World (20070