I read All the Light We Cannot See this weekend. It’s been a long time since I read a fiction book, and it reminded me how much I love reading.
I spent much of my childhood reading. I was all about Accelerated Reader points in elementary school, and my sister and I took part in our local library’s summer reading program. I grew up with Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield of the Sweet Valley High series, the Animorphs, and of course Harry, Hermione, and Ron. Reading before bed was my nightly routine, I’m sure well past my bedtime on occasion. Family road trips included a “book box” in the back of the van because we could never fit as many as we wanted in our backpacks (this was before kindles and smartphones and tablets). I was surprised how many memories came back the first night I laid in bed, unable to put my book down.
When I read a lot, I tend to get dramatic. I’m pretty sure everyone narrates their life in their head as they go about their day, but my narrator gets far more interesting when I’ve been reading. I imagine my life as a story and wonder what intricacies I can create to make the story more interesting. It’s certainly not that I do anything out of the ordinary, but I feel like part of my imagination that has been dormant comes to life.
The material I’m reading either increases or tempers the narrator. I don’t feel any change when I read nonfiction. I enjoy finding ways to relate what I’m reading to my life or personal development, but there’s not an emotional response like there is with fiction, and I supposed heavy fiction intensifies the emotion.
All the Light We Cannot See is a great book that I would recommend, but it is not a light read. It’s historical World War II fiction, and if living during the 1940s wasn’t bad enough, there’s the horrific addition of the war.
[light spoilers & heaviness below]
I tread carefully through the book waiting for the inevitable rape scene I had heard was coming. Page after page, and I didn’t see any scenario where it would happen. Monday evening as I neared the finish of the book, I started to feel hopeful that what I had heard was mistaken – maybe about another book. Then there it was. A few brief paragraphs, thankfully not graphic, but still awful.
They don’t teach you in school that armies would go into cities and rape the women and girls. Upon Googling it (which I don’t recommend), apparently it was very common on both sides of the war. It reminded me of the time I learned that David cut off Goliath’s head after knocking him out with his sling shot. They don’t tell you that part in Sunday School.
[you can come back now]
I think it’s ok to spend some time ruminating what makes you uncomfortable if for no other reason than to make you thankful for your current life. How privileged am I to use my imagination to create dramatic plot lines when I live in the age of the internet and general abundance and [mostly] peace?
“Is it right,” Jutta says, “to do something only because everyone else is doing it?”