Last night I finished the Anthony Doerr novel ‘All the Light We Cannot See’.
It was such an incredibly moving and beautiful experience to read that I was inspired to write this blog.
It was so gorgeously and poetically written it reminded me how much I love language. That feeling I have when I am writing and the language trips and falls from me, whirling its way into a beautiful torrent of beauty on a page.It flows so easily it almost feels as if it comes from elsewhere. Out of me, through me…
A process less about mind and more about gut, flow and feeling.
I listened to Noel Gallagher, from Oasis, on a Radio Four Desert Island Discs podcast a while ago (could I be more middle aged – hello old soul in a young body!) and was surprised to hear him speak so spiritually about the way he writes and composes his songs.
He spoke of writing a lot now and when he was growing up, as a way to cope with an abusive childhood, which is interesting from a trauma perspective. He said that now he writes constantly, but often feels as if he is waiting for that moment of inspiration, for that divine piece of magic to be dropped into his consciousness from above and to flow through him onto the paper and out of his guitar.
For a Gorton (Manchester) born lad with a reputation for aggressive unpleasantness I was surprised and moved by his description of the creative process, which was both poetic and full of a belief I didn’t expect.
Divine inspiration is a beautiful description for creativity.
The idea that creativity and the creation of art – poem, prose, song, words, music, – is not just a personal expression of truth from an individual, but also something gifted from above.
How incredibly special.
I relate to that entirely.
When I’m writing about something I’m passionate about, the element of thought seems to recede and instead it becomes an almost instinctual process.
From gut to page.
Through and out.
It flows and it’s a beautiful thing. It’s not stuck anywhere. It just comes.
That’s what creativity feels like to me.
I remember writing a poem to read for my Dad at his funeral. The process took a short time period and the words flew out so quickly. There was so much to say. So much to honour. Yet it didn’t feel difficult – it flowed out and formed something special, true and loving which I was blessed to read out loud in front of his family and friends.
Reading the Anthony Doerr novel I mentioned above felt incredibly immersive to me and I think that’s what beautiful writing does. The words created a deeply sensory and visceral experience which transported me to the location, to feel entirely involved and present in what was described. It makes even more sense knowing that it is a novel focused around a blind character.
For those that don’t already know, I am an English Literature graduate. I completed my English Literature and Educational Studies BA Honours at Keele University in 2011.
My love of immersive writing and the exploration of ideas, themes and narratives was something I could fully embrace at university where the process of analysing, feeling, understanding and expressing was a great asset to my studies.
I always found that exploratory and analytical questions were the ones I found the easiest. Because there was no right or wrong. It was about interpretation and exploration and opinion.
A subjective look at what the poet means here, what the word combinations referenced, how the poetic styles within the narrative mirrored the action at the time, or reflected the movement and landscape described.
I loved it – it was speaking my language.
I used to await my turn in seminars and discussion sessions at university, as a nervous wee 18 year old, with my thoughts and answers pumping in my chest. Knowing I had a good point to make and excited to share this perspective with the group.
That’s who I am – I love to explore, and learn and understand.
Study, self study specifically – Svadhyaya, is very important in yoga. It is one of the five Niyamas. The process of exploration to gain greater understanding, which I have done during my studies when looking at literature, is something I now do in all aspects of my life. Personal self study leading to personal growth. Professional study leads to being a better practitioner and teacher. It is something I am committed to entirely.
So back to Mr Doerr. This book was incredibly moving because of the two main characters and the way their stories are woven and interlinked throughout.
Set in the Second World War the narrative follows the lives of young Werner Pfenning, a German orphan, who is an incredibly gifted engineer and electrician recruited into the Hitler Youth, and a blind Parisian girl Marie-Laure, the daughter of a locksmith. She flees from Paris with her father to the seafront town of Saint Malo and lives through the war here.
Their stories overlap, drawing them closer together and it is incredibly moving to witness their struggles, and ultimately their humanity within such an unimaginable time period.
It’s been a while since I’ve been as captivated by a novel as I was by this one.
It made me want to write this blog, to write poetry, to express, to explore, to start a book club.
I would love to do this – any takers? Just shout I would love it.
I’ve always been incredibly fascinated by the Second World War. Especially as I’ve gotten older. It’s hard for me to comprehend how people, ones that I’m related to and have known in this lifetime, have lived through, fought in and experienced a world war of this scale. The trauma, fear and the legacy it left behind rippled into the generations that followed and is something that shaped the lives of those that came afterwards, not just those alive during.
With this interest in mind it was fascinating to read this beautiful book. I think there can often be a stereotype around those within the Nazi regime yet this novel challenges that.
Werner is an intelligent, creative, hopeful and bright young German headhunted by Nazi personnel to act as an engineer. He had grown up living in fear of working down the mines, a job which his father had died doing leaving his sister and himself orphans. And so when the opportunity to be a part of the Hitler youth comes along he is thrilled. It is only as he is assimilated into the herd he becomes indoctrinated and scarred by the system and his flame starts to dim.
Just a young boy, living in unimaginable times. When he does gain the courage to ask to leave he is told he has no choice but to stay.
I think we can forget how fortunate we are to have a choice. In our lives. What we do. What we say. How we say it. Where we go.
When I put this book down last night, as well as being moved and inspired to write, I also felt very attached to the characters, especially ones so well formed and beautiful as those written here. I was invested.
I’ve read so many books like that in my life. Where you feel like you want to know so much more, to talk to the characters, the author, hop in the book and take a walk around.
Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman was a book I remember being moved by as a child/young teen. Based in a dystopian world where the existing race narrative is inverted and exaggerated, the novel follows the love story of an affluent, black girl who falls in love with her white servant’s son. It explores these themes of race, love, segregation, fear and anger and shows the way their connection sparks a trajectory for not only their lives, but also those of the people around them.
Being gripped by novels, narratives and characters is not a new thing for me. It’s something I’ve grown up with. An imagination. A curiosity and a thirst to learn and understand.
As a child it was the stories of Roald Dahl that grabbed me, especially the incredible BFG which was a particular favourite of mine. Me and my sister used to talk to each other using his nonsense language – snozzcumber, fizzwiggler and swogswalloped to name a few.
There was something very capturing and magical about peering through your window at a dream-blowing giant, before being transported out of your bedroom, whisked away from under the streetlights and into a world of fantasy, excitement and pure loveliness.
Enid Blyton and The Famous Five were books I read religiously as a little girl, and I have lovely memories of reading Mallory Towers, and anything boarding school related, with my mum and sisters. I used to want so badly to pop off and have a midnight snack with Darryl Rivers and her chums. I was transported for sure.
My imagination was always vivid. When I was younger I used to watch Fawlty Towers, a comedy starring John Cleese, with my family. He was a grumpy, cantankerous hotel owner in Torquay and we all used to laugh together and watch it. I remember always asking my mum and dad if we could turn our house into a B&B and host people after watching it. So funny.
As an adult, authors such as Margaret Atwood, Charlotte Brontë (Jane Eyre and Villette specifically) and Phillipa Gregory come to mind as having gripped and intrigued me.
And now, I add Anthony Doerr to the list.
It’s awesome to have discovered a new author and lovely to have been so moved by the story and his style of writing that it evoked this blog.
Cheers to writing, to divine inspiration, to feeling the flow of creativity and to letting it come flooding out to form something beautiful that can be shared with the world.
Cheers to poetry, to life, to the things that inspire, the things that create joy, the things that spark a thought, a musing, a moment to reflect, that trigger a memory, to the things that make life real and powerful and beautiful and challenging.
Cheers to being a thinker and an analyser.
A learner and a writer.
Cheers to today.
And cheers to tomorrow.
And cheers to you for reading.