The basics: Set during World War II, All the Light We Cannot See tells the interwoven stories of Marie-Laure, a young Parisian girl going blind whose father works at the Museum of Natural History, and Werner, a young German teenager growing up in an orphanage, where he develops a fascination with radios.
My thoughts: Over the years, I've grown weary of World War II tales. I find it a fascinating time in history, but I've read so many great novels about the time and so many good novels about the time that most new WWII novels have a hard time sticking out. Admittedly, if I read this one several years ago, I might have enjoyed it even more than I did.
What makes All the Light We Cannot See so good are the writing and the characters. Doerr is both a great storyteller and a masterful sentence constructor:
"Up and down the lanes, the last unevacuated townspeople wake, groan, sigh. Spinsters, prostitutes, men over sixty. Procrastinators, collaborators, disbelievers, drunks. Nuns of every order. The poor. The stubborn. The blind."This novel is one to be read slowly. It's a pageturner, but it's a novel to savor. As much as I enjoyed Doerr's writing, it's the characters who really drew me in. Marie-Laure 's circumstances were heartbreaking and fascinating. Her relationship with her father, and her father's devotion to raising a self-sufficient blind woman, moved me. Similarly, Werner's circumstances were also heartbreaking and fascinating. Although it was easy to guess how their lives might cross, I still enjoyed reading it.
Doerr smartly moves this novel back and forth in time, in ways that added layers of meaning and also provided some relief from the depressing tone of the war.
Favorite passage: "Over time, thinks Marie-Laure, events that seem jumbled either become more confusing or gradually settle into place."
The verdict: All the Light We Cannot See is a beautifully written tale of World War II. Doerr uses the story of these two different characters to tell a story that is both singularly fascinating and a larger tale of the ways war strips us all of our humanity.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Length: 531 pages
Publication date: May 6, 2014
Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy All the Light We Cannot See from Amazon (Kindle edition.)
Want more? Visit Anthony Doerr's website. I was lucky enough to meet Doerr at the American Library Association conference last summer, and he was as sincerely delightful and interesting as his characters.
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