The thin line between good and evil

Sep 10, 2019 | Book Review

As a copywriter, I’m always reading in order to learn and improve. I strongly believe that every writer has to be a reader. They go hand in hand. In the midst of “work reading”, I also try to find time just to read for pleasure. Hence, some of the reviews/opinions you will find here about books (this being the first).

At times, it is easy to classify someone as inherently good or evil. I can think of a few twisted serial killers off the top of my head that don’t seem to have any redeeming qualities. Likewise, I’m sure we can all think of people we love that we hold up on a pedestal of virtue.

However, the truth is that most human beings are complex creatures and not many would be all light or all dark.

Both of these New York Times bestseller list books – M.L. Stedman’s The Light Between Oceans and Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See are brilliant books that explore this concept. Set in completely different parts of the world with the former on an island off the West Australian coast and the latter in war torn Germany and France, they nonetheless delve into the human psyche and examine how good people can do terrible things and vice versa.

Stunning in their visual imagery and rich in their descriptive language, it is the frailty of the human heart that lingers long after the last words have been read (and the last tears cried).

I especially reflected on Doerr’s story in light of the current political climate around the world. It is easy to point the finger at the past and be incredulous about how people remained silent as Hitler carried out some of the worst atrocities in history. However, Doerr illustrates that this line between ‘good’ and ‘evil’ isn’t very clear cut, least of all when you are standing at its front. Nothing is black and white.

Both novels also demonstrate how one person’s decision can have consequences that they never imagined. Like light splintering into millions of tiny fragments, a decision can ripple outwards and touch people in a positive or negative light. And despite our original intentions, sometimes we must live with the consequences of those decisions.

Both these novels are complex and have many layers to them. They would make great study or book club subjects because there would be so much to discuss! Highly enjoyable and recommended reads, but I do warn, there will be tears.

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