Wednesday, March 5, 2014

And There Was Light: The Extraordinary Memoir of a Blind Hero of the French Resistance in World War II by Jacques Lusseyran

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: March 3, 2014

When Jacques Lusseyran was an eight-year-old Parisian schoolboy, he was blinded in an accident. He finished his schooling determined to participate in the world around him. In 1941, when he was seventeen, that world was Nazi-occupied France. Lusseyran formed a resistance group with fifty-two boys and used his heightened senses to recruit the best. Eventually, Lusseyran was arrested and sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp in a transport of two thousand resistance fighters. He was one of only thirty from the transport to survive. His gripping story is one of the most powerful and insightful descriptions of living and thriving with blindness, or indeed any challenge, ever published.

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Almost every reviewer I know has something they love reading about and I am no exception. Historic fiction, steampunk, alternative history, nonfiction - it doesn't matter. If it relates to WWII, I'm there.  Hence my interest in Jacques Lusseyran's And There Was Light. 

The book itself is a memoir, but a memoir of the man, not his time with the French Resistance. Personally, I felt Lusseyran's war effort represented the weakest aspect of the text as his readers are offered minimal detail with regard to the ideologies of his group, their goals and the manner in which they functioned. I enjoyed the pages dedicated to his captivity, but still felt cheated by how the book is marketed as I feel it sets an expectation it fails to achieve. 

That being said, I thought Lusseyran's experiences as a blind boy/man in an age that was openly prejudice of the disabled community interesting and can see significant appeal for those readers who enjoy stories of an individual's Christian faith.

Not bad though not what was expected. The material is thought-provoking, but the writing itself is not remarkably poignant and left little impression on me. 

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In this world the only thing that counted was brute force — and not even force but the semblance of it. To have the right to live one had to prove oneself an Aryan without physical defect. The diseased in mind and the sick of soul had their place immediately, and were pushed into the front ranks. But woe to the one legged, the hunchbacks, the Negroes and the Jews! In the biological laboratories, the latest inventions of modern science, they were preparing a convenient end for all of them: extermination in the gas chambers, sterilization, at best elimination by slower stages.
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