All the Light we Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Sometimes I race my way through books, finishing them in a day or two, unable to put them down. And then at other times it can literally take me months to complete reading a story. This book fell into the latter category; I began reading it over two months ago and at times I felt unsure as to whether I’d actually reach the end.

All the Light We Cannot See tells the story of Marie-Laure, blind from the age of 6 and living in France during WW2. Her father has been entrusted with the care of a priceless diamond, and its presence in their lives proves a danger to all around them. This story interweaves with that of orphan Werner Pfennig, whose extraordinary intelligence and engineering talent draws him to the attention of the German military.

This is a well-written story and the pace definitely picks up towards the end, but at first I found it slow-going and it has taken me a while to read the whole story. I did feel at times that pace was lacking – I seemed to be reading through several chapters where not much ‘happened’. Beautiful descriptive detail, but just not enough (in my opinion) in terms of plot. I think the only thing that got me to the end was a feeling that I needed to finish it after spending so much time on the first 250-300 pages.

Overall, I found it fairly underwhelming, especially given the large number of positive reviews it recieves

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

So, confession time: I have in the past attended midnight bookshop openings to purchase copies of Harry Potter books (and I wasn’t even a child at the time). For Cursed Child however I did pre-order online (3 very young children mean I’m venturing nowhere at midnight these days). I was still pretty excited though: a Harry Potter sequel (albeit in play format) is a big deal.

I’ve actually been a little surprised to see the media reporting in the past couple of days about how critics are unimpressed with the playscript as it lacks the descriptive detail of Rowling’s novels and the depth of the actual performance on stage. I’m unsure as to what exactly they were expecting from a playscript; of course it will lack the richness of the performance. But the same could also be said of any other published play, and surely a part of reading and enjoying a playscript is an understanding that we are seeing a ‘part’ of something, but that the performance is going to change what has been printed.

The story centres around Harry Potter’s middle child, Albus, who finds his relationship with his father and others strained, and who can be surprised when he is the child of the Boy who Lived and named after two ‘great’ headmasters of Hogwarts: that’s a lot to live up to. Albus decides it is time to take his own path in life and with the help of an unexpected friend and a stolen Time-Turner sets out to right a wrong from the past, with terrible consequences.

So, did the eighth story live up to my expectations? 

I loved it! As with all the Harry Potter stories I felt that the real strength of this text lay within the characters (Scorpius Malfoy was my favourite by the way) and the plot. There were times when I even forgot I was reading a play rather than a novel; I was carried away by the story. At times moving and thought-provoking, especially when it came to parent-child relationships, there were also moments that made me laugh-out-loud. 

It felt like this had been written for a generation that had grown up with Harry Potter and were now dealing with the stresses and uncertainties of adulthood.
I’m sure not everyone will agree with me and I’m convinced that there will be Harry Potter fans who hate The Cursed Child but I loved it and would really like to be able to see it on the stage (someday, maybe).