The Shell Collector

(c) Tash Turgoose

—   R E V I E W   —

"Every six hours the tides plowed shelves of beauty onto the beaches of the world, and here he was, able to walk out into it, thrust his hands into it, spin a piece of it between his fingers. To gather up seashells - each one in amazement - to know their names, to drop them into a bucket: this was what filled his life, what overfilled it."

I've figured it out. I know where this obsession is coming from. 
Anthony Doerr is the David Attenborough of the literary world.

Given my Attenborough love affair, this is a big, big call, I know, but read just a page or two, and you'll get it. Doerr's stories are a love affair with nature, laden with detail and fact in equal portions – like an Attenborough documentary type journey, making you fall in the love with the beauty of the world, and teaching you about it along the way. I can't imagine how long Doerr spends researching each story, but it's so worthwhile - knowledge seeps from every page in the most beautiful way.

The Shell Collector is the first in Doerr's short story collective, his debut book, also called The Shell Collector. So far, I've only read this story, but there are eight in total... so plenty more reviews (and illustrations!) to come! The Shell Collector tells the story of a blind malacologist (shell scientist) living on a tiny island in Kenya, studying shells whilst collecting them for a mainland museum. Each day he wades out onto the shallow reef and searches the corals with his fingertips, almost instantly identifying his finds by touch. The richness in Doerr's language means you feel the ridges, valleys, swirls of the shells alongside the protagonist as he collects... 
Along the way, there is love, heartbreak and miracles — it's a quick read, coming in at 35 pages, but a powerful one. 

Another wonderful thing about Doerr's writing is the Easter eggs — in The Shell Collector you can see the footprints leading to All The Light We Cannot See. Both title characters are blind, and just as The Shell Collector studies shells, Marie-Laure would spend her days in the shell sections of The Museum of Natural History, running her fingers over the grooves and twists... 

So, the Doerr love continues... 
I've acquired all but one of his books now (Memory Wall, I'm coming for you), and am slowing working my way through them. Damn, if I can write even HALF this good one day, I'll be content. With each review, I'll be creating illustrations to go along with them, too. 

Follow my socials to stay updated for when new reviews come out! 
I'm @TashTurgoose on everything. :) 

'til next time x




—   R E V I E W   —


"What mazes there are in this world. The branches of trees, the filigree of roots, the matrix of crystals, the streets her father recreated in his models... 
None more complicated than the human brain, Etienne would say, what may be the most complex object in existence; one wet kilogram within with spin universes."

Oh, this book.
This beautiful, heartbreaking, perfect book. 

I picked up All The Light We Cannot See in the midst of a Doerr frenzy. A chance encounter in a Melbourne bookstore, where I found his travel memoir Four Seasons in Rome, and I'm hooked. There's just something about the way he writes, like he sees every single detail that the world has to offer, and has researched this Earth so meticulously, with such love, that his books become a love letter to nature, history, science... 

All The Light kicks off in WWII Europe, following the soon-to-be interwoven threads of Parisian girl Marie-Laure LeBlanc, and German orphan Werner Pfennig. Now, I think it's the intricacies, the tiny details, that make this book so moving. Werner loves science, and spends his days playing with the wires of radios, and his nights listening to forbidden broadcasts from across the continent. This spurs his story in more ways than one, landing him in the Hitler Youth and chasing memories from his past. 

Marie-Laure is blind, but that doesn't stop her love for the world around her. Her father, Daniel, is a wood worker, and a locksmith at the Museum of Natural History. Marie-Laure spends her days in its halls, feeling her way through the molluscs, befriending an old scientist and learning from his works. She's mostly uninhibited by her blindness, due to her father incredible works, crafting precise models of the towns they live, so she can learn her way with her fingers, and then with her feet. 

Sometimes, there is so much detail, is seems quite heavy, but as every one of those details pulls together in the second half of the book, you'll feel a strange sense of nostalgia, and pride for having followed the threads. 

More often than not, my heart ached. It's one of the first books to ever make me gasp out loud, and feels as though I'd lost a friend. I was so deep in Doerr's world that a voice from the other side of my room would make me jump. I was there, feeling my way through the streets of Paris, fiddling with the wires of transceivers, desperately breaking open tins of precious food, hiding in secret places, rebelling through the radio waves. 

All The Light We Cannot see is historical fiction at its very best, it doesn't retell WWII occurrences like the echo of a textbook, is seamlessly weaves fact into beautiful, haunting fiction. 

I'd recommend reading his memoir Four Seasons in Rome before you read this, though. It's not a necessity, by any means, but the memoir follows a year in Rome, as he begins to write All The Light. He wrestles to find inspiration for the novel while in a city spilling with so many more stories, and having read those intimate thoughts, and then the book from which is spurred, you feel a little more connected to it, as if Doerr is a friend to whom you spoke as he wrote, and now you get to read the finished piece. 

Whatever you do, read something of Doerr's. 
You must, it's a treat for your soul. All The Light We Cannot See is haunting, heartbreaking, but above all, beautiful. 


The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas [Illustrated Edition]



For the past few months, I've had a total obsession with illustrated books. It started at university, in a class devoted to them and their creation, and just ballooned to a point where I have my own illustrated book coming out in three months time! Eep!

So, when I found out that one of my favourite books, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, was being released as an illustrated book to honour it's 10th year anniversary, I HAD to have it... and I was NOT disappointed. Author John Boyne joined up with his friend, illustrator Oliver Jeffers to create a beautiful, understated book that I am totally in love with. 

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas Illustrated Edition

The illustrations are simple, yet brimming with emotion. Only three colours are used throughout the book - black (or shades of), blue and red. One of Bruno's shirts is highlighted throughout the book, as the only blue piece of clothing, and becomes incredibly significant at the end of the story. Those who have read the book (or seen the movie) know what I mean... 


It's an important story, highlighting the dualities of the Nazi era, made even more powerful by the child's perspective. Bruno refers to Hitler as 'The Fury', and thinks that 'Heil Hitler' is another way of saying goodbye, have a good day. It starts by playing with your heart a little, giving you all the feels along the way, and then all of a sudden, the end just grab your heart, tears it in half, and sets it on fire. You've been warned. 

All in all, it's a beautiful story, and the illustrations make it even better.    >> ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ <<


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