The Sea of Flames

Two weeks ago I flew from Sydney to Madrid and spent a total of 32 hours in transit. It was sticky and sluggish; time didn’t play by the rules. It warped. It got sucked into the propellers and caught in the wings of the Airbus 8380 as it cut through the skies at nine hundred kilometres an hour. Spat out in a million pieces and rearranged in my woozy body.

The day before my flight, I found myself in a bookstore, my eyes grazing over all the colourful covers and bold titles, looking for something special to take with me. I knew I would need company. I saw the cover of Anthony Doerr’s novel ‘All the Light We Cannot See’, read an extract from the middle, and didn’t hesitate to run to the check-out counter. I’m so glad I decided to treat myself that day. What if I had never found this book?

The brain is locked in total darkness, of course, children, says the voice. It floats in a clear liquid inside the skull, never in the light. And yet the world it constructs in the mind is full of light. It brims with colour and movement. So how, children, does the brain, which lives without a spark of light, build for us a world full of light?


Immediately, I feel in love with the focus and detail of his writing. The smallest things, a sea snail, a key, a little wooden house, are described with such intimacy that it feels like each thing is it own universe. He makes you feel Marie-Laure’s wonder at the world, Werner’s confusion about the trajectory of his own life.

The novel is comprised of vignettes, observing the lives of the characters, which are so well composed that I could see, touch, and feel things well beyond the confines of the cramped economy plane seat. Doerr makes it seem easy to spin intricate stories that intertwine and separate again flawlessly. I don’t want to give too much away – it’s best read not fully knowing what to expect. If you haven’t read it, picture this:

The Second World War. France. Germany. Two loaded guns pointed at each other. Marie-Laure, a young blind girl, who has freckles and the ability to love and feel things with the weight and depth of the Atlantic ocean. Radios. Claire de Lune. The infinite spirals in a million seashells. Werner, a blond orphan plucked from his childhood and thrown into darkness. Pêches sucrées. Blood.

To shut your eyes is to guess nothing of blindness. Beneath your world of skies and faces and buildings exists a rawer and older world, a place where surface planes disintegrate and sounds ribbon in shoals through the air.

This booked helped me through my homesickness the first week I spent here in Spain, it took my thoughts away from home during the night, when one can feel empty or alone. I read in bed. I read on the bus. I read on the two hour train ride to Málaga. The last few chapters were so full of raw emotions that I couldn’t help but cry until the end. It felt so real, and so simple. It’s been a really long time since a story has touched my heart in such a profound way and made me feel so much love for characters that only exist in my head.

Thank you for reading lovelies. I hope you’re all enjoying life, and that you’ll excuse my being absent. Inspiration is a slippery, slippery thing… but I think I’m back on track. Enjoy x


2 thoughts on “The Sea of Flames

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