Book review: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr


Title: All the Light We Cannot See

Author: Anthony Doerr

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Scribner

Publication date: 6th May 2014

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Summary:

“Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, Werner Pfennig, an orphan, grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they have never seen or imagined. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments and is enlisted to use his talent to track down the resistance. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.

My review:

All the Light We Cannot See follows Marie-Laure as she moves away from Paris with her father at the age of six, and Werner, an orphan who is struggling to find his place in the world as he joins the forces in Nazi Germany. The reader joins these two characters on their incredible journey as they try to survive the war each in their own way. Both characters are well developed and likable enough for the reader to form a true bond and I felt eager to follow their journeys.

Written in short alternating chapters of each character’s POV, the plot feels almost feels too linear and I wondered why the author chose this style several times as I was reading the book. My favourite part was by far the moment when their paths cross as this was the closure I needed from the beginning and I finally understood his decision of writing the book in this style.

As far as storytelling goes, no words can do this book justice and Anthony Doerr deserves all the awards. Only a few other authors come to mind when it comes to telling a heartfelt story from start to finish but none manage to do so with as much ease and finesse. Although the scenery is almost always dreary and somber as the war spreads through France, the feeling of hope is so deep rooted in this book that it makes for a very raw and real reading experience.

My pet peeve in Historical Fiction is short chapters as I feel that there is not enough depth to the narrative and not enough time to truly engage with the scenery and characters. I definitely felt that way as I read this book and I would have preferred longer chapters focusing on each character rather than small snippets into their lives until their reunion. I could have carried on reading past the ending as by that point I was so invested in both characters and would have enjoyed reading whichever way the story developed.

It is no wonder that All the Lights We Cannot See is the Goodread’s Historical Fiction win of 2014. This book is moving, exciting and incredible. If you decide to read any Historical Fiction book, even if it is not your choice of genre, I am sure that you will not be disappointed if you make it this one.

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