Bupper: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

This past Monday we had another round of Bupper Club magic! (Honestly, magic is an understatement.) Our good friend Kaki was this month’s host and she really outdid herself. I always look forward to seeing how everyone interpreted our latest read and anticipating the meal our host will prepare to go along with it. I have read books that I would have NEVER chosen to read and absolutely loved them.

To catch you up, we’ve been reading All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr for the past 6 weeks. The historical fiction novel takes place during World War II and follows the lives of a blind French girl and a young German boy whose paths eventually cross. I can’t even begin to express the imagery painted by the author. I think for the first time, maybe ever, I wanted to keep reading a book not only for the storyline, but for the beautiful style of writing as well. I’m not a huge history buff so I admittedly don’t know too many details about World War II other than the obvious. Hitler, the Holocaust, Pearl Harbor, D-Day, Hiroshima – that’s what I could tell you. It was both overwhelmingly sad and incredibly fascinating to read about what growing up in that world may have been like.  I won’t go into too much detail for those of you who have not read it, but I would highly recommend curling up with this book on a rainy weekend.

You know you’ve chosen a great book when it wins the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction while you’re reading it. All the Light We Cannot See just joined the ranks of Gone with the Wind and To Kill a Mockingbird!

[ the MEAL ]

Because most of the book takes place in France, Kaki put a spin on a few French dishes for her meal. Everything. Was. Devine. First we dined on baked brie with a blackberry compote followed by lemon spinach and orzo salad, basil and Gruyère crustless quiche, and chicken cordon blue croissants. Last but not least we enjoyed a peach crumble with vanilla ice cream. This is real life. I got to eat this for dinner on Monday!

Interested in making one of these dishes? Here are some of the recipes that Kaki put her own spin on!

Basil and Gruyère Crustless Quiche: Ina Garten (Kaki skipped the potatoes for her version and cooked in a pie dish.)

Lemon Spinach and Orzo Salad: A Big Mouthful (Kaki doubled the dressing and added a pack of fresh spinach in her version.)

Peach Crumble with Vanilla Ice Cream: Bakerella

A big thank you to Kaki for being a lovely host! The Atlanta skyline view from her roof was the perfect spot for a glass of wine and a delicious meal.

[ discussion QUESTIONS for All the Light We Cannot See ]

1. The narration moves back and forth both in time and between different characters. How did this affect your reading experience? How do you think the experience would have been different if the story had been told entirely in chronological order?

2. Whose story did you enjoy the most? Was there any character you wanted more insight into?

3. On page 160, Marie-Laure realizes “This . . . is the basis of his fear, all fear. That a light you are powerless to stop will turn on you and usher a bullet to its mark.” How does this image constitute the most general basis of all fear? Do you agree?

4. On page 390, the author writes, “To shut your eyes is to guess nothing of blindness.” What did you learn or realize about blindness through Marie-Laure’s perspective? Do you think her being blind gave her any advantages?

5. One of Werner’s bravest moments is when he confronts von Rumpel: “All your life you wait, and then it finally comes, and are you ready?” (page 465) Have you ever had a moment like that? Were you ready? What would you say that moment is for some of the other characters?

6. Why do you think Marie-Laure gave Werner the little iron key? Why might Werner have gone back for the wooden house but left the Sea of Flames?

7. Von Rumpel seemed to believe in the power of the Sea of Flames, but was it truly a supernatural object or was it merely a gemstone at the center of coincidence? Do you think it brought any protection to Marie-Laure and/or bad luck to those she loved?

8. The 1970s image of Jutta is one of a woman deeply guilt-ridden and self-conscious about her identity as a German. Why do you think she feels so much guilt over the crimes of others? Can you relate to this? Do you think she should feel any shame about her identity?

9. What do you think of the author’s decision to flash forward at the end of the book? Did you like getting a peek into the future of some of these characters? Did anything surprise you?