Anthony Doerr, alum of Mr. Berger’s, wins a Pulitzer Prize

With 2015 over and done with, we are all eager to move on to a fresh start in 2016. But first, we have to honor the achievements of the previous year. And the Pulitzer Prize, an award given for literature, journalism, and musical composition, is a great achievement. The 2015 Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction is Anthony Doerr, for his book All the Light We Cannot See. The novel, which is set in Nazi-occupied France during World War II, centers on a blind French girl and a precocious German boy, whose paths eventually cross because of the war. The book is truly astounding, with a beautifully woven plot and powerful, moving language, but the really amazing thing about it is that its author was actually the student of current DCDS AP Physics teacher, Mr. Berger.

Mr. Berger, before coming to DCDS, taught at a boys’ school in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, called University School. Mr. Berger had Anthony Doerr as a ninth and tenth grader, and was Doerr’s lacrosse coach, advisor, and physics teacher.

“I would not have predicted him to win the Pulitzer prize,” Mr. Berger said. “He was definitely engaged in school, but he would have never predicted this kind of success.”

Mr. Berger fondly looks back on the student and athlete that he knew Anthony Doerr as. The two were definitely very close as teacher and student, and Mr. Berger still laughs as he remembers young Anthony Doerr.

“I remember this picture of the junior varsity lacrosse team, and Tony was on the edge of the huddle, looking out to the sides,” Mr. Berger said. “There was always a sincere smile on his face, and he had good intentions. But there was always good-hearted mischief in his actions.”

Mr. Berger kept in contact with Anthony Doerr through Mr. Doerr’s college days and beyond. Though All the Light We Cannot See is Mr. Doerr’s third novel, Mr. Berger was quite surprised to hear about the book, and he read it as soon as he could.

“It was a fascinating read, with a unique construction, using two children to narrate the story,” Mr. Berger said. “It took him over 10 years to write, so he had done incredible research to produce a vivid drawing of what pre-war life was like in Germany and France. I was especially impressed by the fact that although the characters were helpless at times, there was always a glimmer of redeeming hope.”

Mrs. Hannett, current DCDS English teacher, has read All the Light We Cannot See, and she enjoyed it immensely. She highly recommends it, and is thinking of making it summer reading for some of her classes next year.

“Over the summer, I became acquainted with the All the Light We Cannot See,” Mrs. Hannett said. “I read the New York Times review, and many magazine reviews, and they all gave it excellent reviews. It definitely deserved the Pulitzer Prize for the best novel in America.”

She recommended the novel to the DCDS writing club, Spectrum, and by chance, Mr. Berger found out from a student common to both of them that Mrs. Hannett had read the work, and wanted to go to a lecture in which Anthony Doerr would speak. So, she and Mr. Berger went to Mr. Doerr’s lecture at University School, and Mrs. Hannett happily remembers how thrilled Mr. Doerr was to see Mr. Berger.

Mrs. Hannett absolutely loved the book as soon as she read it, and admired the intriguing, well-built plot, flowing language, and the detailed, historical reality of the novel. She praised the novel thoroughly, and easily recalled its riveting, winding plot.

“It has such majestic style, grasp of language, and great topics,” Mrs. Hannett said. “Intricately woven in the plot of the blind French girl and the brilliant German youth, who meet in Nazi-occupied France is the legend of the Flame of the Sea, a prized diamond. The technology of the time, the radio receptions, electronics, clocks, and keys, and sea creatures, are depicted with great accuracy.”

The book All the Light We Cannot See and its author have sparked much excitement, especially for members of the DCDS community. It truly is a small world, for how amazing is it to think that our very own DCDS teachers have a personal connection to a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer? Mrs. Hannett is hoping to get Mr. Doerr to come to DCDS and speak next year. Be sure to read his fantastic book All the Light We Cannot See, and cross your fingers that he might even come visit DCDS!

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