All the Light There Was
Genre: Historical Fiction
Summary (from the publisher): All the Light There Was is the story of an Armenian family’s struggle to survive the Nazi occupation of Paris in the 1940s—a lyrical, finely wrought tale of loyalty, love, and the many faces of resistance.
On the day the Nazis march down the rue de Belleville, fourteen-year-old Maral Pegorian is living with her family in Paris; like many other Armenians who survived the genocide in their homeland, they have come to Paris to build a new life. The adults immediately set about gathering food and provisions, bracing for the deprivation they know all too well. But the children—Maral, her brother Missak, and their close friend Zaven—are spurred to action of another sort, finding secret and not-so-secret ways to resist their oppressors. Only when Zaven flees with his brother Barkev to avoid conscription does Maral realize that the Occupation is not simply a temporary outrage to be endured. After many fraught months, just one brother returns, changing the contours of Maral’s world completely.
Like Tatiana de Rosnay’s Sarah’s Key and Jenna Blum’s Those Who Save Us, All the Light There Was is an unforgettable portrait of lives caught in the crosswinds of history.
Review: This book is good, but not fantastic. I've read quite a few historical fiction novels that take place during WWII, and this one is different because it's about an ordinary girl. Maral isn't Jewish, but she has friends and neighbors who are Jewish and are rounded up and deported by the Nazis. She's not active in the Resistance, but she has friends and family members who are. Maral is an ordinary girl, trying to live an ordinary life, and so we get a glimpse of what Parisian families struggled with during the German occupation - rationing, lack of work and money, fear for friends, uncertainty about the future. The introduction to Armenian food, culture, religion and history is also interesting, although given the time period, it focuses mostly on eating root vegetables, mourning traditions, the genocide that her parents survived. I spent a lot of the book feeling sad for Maral and the choices that she feels she has to make, but the ending left me feeling hopeful.
Rating: 3.5 stars