Tag Archives: Realistic Characters

See Obstacles as Opportunities-Anthony Doerr-All the light we cannot see


2015-Pulitzer Prize winning novel-                                                                     Werner and Marie-Laure’s paths converge in 1944, when Allied forces have landed on the beaches of Normandy and Werner’s unit is dispatched to Saint-Malo to trace and destroy the sender of mysterious intelligence broadcasts. Etienne and Marie-Laure have been making these broadcasts for the French Resistance. Werner ultimately decides to allow the broadcasts to continue and eventually saves Marie-Laure from von Rumpel. Although only together for a short time, they form a strong bond. As they flee from Saint-Malo, Marie-Laure places the Sea of Flames inside a grotto flooded with seawater from the tide. Werner sends Marie-Laure away into safety but becomes gravely ill. Just as he begins to recover, he accidentally steps on a landmine at night in a fit of delirium, which immediately kills him.
Thirty years later, Jutta, Werner’s sister, receives information from Werner’s old associate and friend, Frank Volkheimer, that contains information on Werner’s death as well as a house from the model that Marie-Laure’s father had made. Jutta travels to France with her son Max, where she meets Marie-Laure in the museum at which her father had worked. Marie-Laure discovers that the miniature house in which the Sea of Flames had been hidden, which she put to sea with Werner in a hidden grotto in Saint-Malo, was with Werner when he died. In it, she finds the key to the grotto. The story ends with Marie-Laure, now 86 years old, walking with her grandson in the streets of Paris where she grew up.
(Wikipedia- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_the_Light_We_Cannot_See)


The inner life is the central subject of many 20th-century novels, and it is a subject that is not easily brought into the movies.

Tim Spurgin-in Art of Reading course


The inner life of characters of Doerr’s novel-reveals many things about the workings of the Europe of 1940s


The inner life of characters associated with the Third Reich, was the most powerful part of Anthony Doerr’s book- All the Light We Cannot See.

However, I felt that some characters, which may have not been the main protagonists start developing a stronger voice than Werner or Marie Laure who were –at least as per the introduction of the book- the main characters.


Reading in open spaces is different.

Reading Places-Sagawa Beach-Lake Huron

Re-examined the dynamics of the Sergeant Major Von Rumpel-  in his interaction with the museum staff in a bid to get gems. This character brought out many nuances of thinking, organization, of the Third Reich



In the end of the novel Marie Laure looks back at the France of early 1940s and the war, which was its centre, from which the rest of their life spiralled. Marie Laure cannot listen to lists of names. Soccer team rosters, citations at the end of journals, introductions at faculty meetings- always they seem to her some vestige of the prison lists that never contained her father’s name.


In Reading Journal-of last month, German society coming out of reunification was portrayed  through the dialogues of two characters on Nationalism- Jack Reacher-and the German Police chief Griezman. See blog https://wp.me/p5YX3a-mb

In this book, the inner workings of Third Reich, how it affected Europe comes across powerfully through the way characters like Von Rumpel approach France, Poland, Trainings.

Reading Places-Rattray Marsh-Port Credit-Mississauga



Do You Love your country-Mr Reacher?

Courtney Park Library-Mississauga-Ontario

The reading journal is an attempt to go beyond bullet points- from making lists of which books I read and try to see the developing of a character or plot or relation. Taking the example of the book discussion on “Night School” by Lee Child, we see some points which can help organize a Reading Book Club and deepen the –Art of Reading.


The book discussion on –Night School-by Lee Child , at the Courtney Park Library Branch book club brought up the question- What makes these characters (like Jack Reacher) so likeable and enduring.

The book in the thriller genre was something which some members said was not what they read usually, but found it to be a good read, enjoyable, engaging and every chapter had a hook or revelation which led the readers to wanting to read on. The ending was a bit lame, but on the whole most members gave it a 7 out of 10.


Every month, we discuss a book after reading it, or shall we say-trying to read it..as many times the book cannot be finished, some of them being Award winning books-but leave the Members wondering what is there to give an award for?

Then the members give their comments and rating on the books- this is followed by discussions on the characters, plot, genre and what we can get out of this particular work of literature.

HOW TO READ?…10 pages a day tactics

In these times,when people have lost the Reading Habit – the suggestion of one veteran of Reading Clubs – Read at least 10 pages a day- is a very handy one.

In 30 days, we can finish 300 page book.


One more idea- being followed and developed over a period of time (a few years) is to keep a Reading Journal- in which one records one’s thoughts-ideas and takeaways from a book.



All members agreed that governments do things which the common citizens would be alarmed if they came to know. These things protect national interests within the country and outside, and though JR is a composite of many characters- a person who can pull the trigger and also be highly analytical- there are such persons on the ground.


Yes..this opinion came out in the discussions, as it was pointed out that Europe, Middle East, North Africa have been disturbed by agents such as JR who come and disturb the many dynamics of a region and leave a mess.


This brought us to the discussion on the types of conflict within North American society, which is observing the 50th anniversary of the assassination of MLK (Martin Luther King).

“Here, things are much more political, social. In Europe, especially Eastern Europe-the countries emerging from post-Soviet times have been disturbed at the level of Government, regimes, constitution- as the example of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine shows. There are other examples.”


Lee Child brings out the nuances of what is patriotism in a few lines….(If one has a Reading Journal Mindset-one can look for such passages –What can we learn from this?)

Page 202

“Do you love your country, Mr.Reacher?”

“Major Reacher.”

“Perhaps that answers my question.”

“I prefer to think of it as healthy not sceptical  respect”

“Not very patriotic.”

“Exactly Patriotic. My country, right or wrong. Which means nothing, unless you admit your country is wrong sometimes. Loving a country that was right all the time would be common sense, not patriotism.”

Griezman said, “ I am sorry your country is having these troubles.”

Reacher said , “ Do you love your country?”

“It’s too early to say. It was only fifty years ago. We changed more than any other country has ever changed. I think we were doing OK. But the people from the east have set us back. Economically,of course. And politically. We’re seeing things we haven’t seen before.”

“Like the bar Helmut Klopp called you from.”

“We have to bide our time. We can’t arrest them for thought crimes.We need actual crimes.”


READING JOURNAL NOTE…Firstly – the reading journal is an attempt to go beyond bullet points- from making lists of which books I read and try to see the developing of a character or plot or relation.

In the above exchange between the Military Police US Agent-Jack Reacher with the German Police Chief Griezman the developing understanding of what constitutes patriotism and the flux in their society which re-unification of Germany has brought about comes forward. As mentioned earlier- a character or agent like US MP Jack Reacher can and does exist, and can change the dynamics of a society by intervening in many ways. The German local policeman has to contend with many forces and has to stay on in that very society, where he will remain answerable and accountable, while a foreign agent like Reacher answers to his overseas government. The many nuances of what constitutes patriotism (My country right or wrong) also comes out. This book is set in the 1990s..Twenty plus years down the line, post Invasion-Destruction of Iraq, Syria, Libya the Europe of 2010s..faces many challenges with the refugee crises brought about by foreign interventions..This is an Industry in itself- with the military minds creating situations which will keep creating more needs for likes of themselves. Ukraine is another living example.

Many such notes have been made from different sections of Night School-not all can/should be posted publicly. However, the above example shows how to develop further –The Art of Reading.


ORGANIZATION OF THE BOOK CLUB…Discussing rating a piece of work in a joint setting helps to add a different level to the reading experience

10 PAGES A DAY..Is a great way to keep the reading habit going

READING JOURNAL..Helps go into nuances..like what is Patriotism? As brought about in the dialogue between Agent Reacher and Policeman Griezman

HOW /WHY TO SELECT A BOOK ..This point is coming up in our discussions as we gear up for the selections for next year..Do we include Non Fiction, Biographies, Spiritual books….are some suggestions.

POST SCRIPT…After this lively discussion I sat with my son and saw the 2012 Movie –where Tom Cruise plays Jack Reacher

Blog-Jack Reacher-1
The Law has limits-He Does Not…By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37219725

To Try to answer the question- what makes a character like JR- so enduring and likeable- maybe it is a character which can do things which normal people hope /want to do, but cannot.

Would like to hear from Readers, their views on this