Hello! Today I’ll be reviewing All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. First off, I wanted to say that I haven’t read anything for awhile that has been written this beautifully. I’ve noticed that most contemporary novels (at least of those that I’ve read) tend to focus on developing the plot and the characters and since there’s such a heavy emphasis on these aspects, the writing becomes a bit watered down. It’s especially noticeable when you read a typical contemporary novel, and then read Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See which is filled with such rich beautiful imagery. Besides the fact that it’s a historical fiction, much of which is set in France and in particular Paris, I loved the writing style the most.
This has become a pretty popular novel recently so if you haven’t already heard what it’s about I’ll give a brief synopsis. The novel is set during the second World War and follows the lives of the two main characters Marie-Laure and Werner. They are both the same age, but throughout the majority of the novel their lives remain separate and not connected. Marie-Laure is blind and her father who works for a museum builds her a model of the city of Paris out of wood as a means to help her navigate the city better. Werner is an orphan along with his sister, though from a young age he illustrates his mechanical mindset as he fixes radios and understands the complexities of the technology of the day. Werner eventually joins the effort to thwart the resistance and I won’t say anymore because I don’t want to give away any spoilers!
In general, I really liked the way the two character’s lives intertwined, some people have said they didn’t like that it didn’t happen initially but I think that really kept the reader intrigued throughout the novel because the whole time I was wondering how these seemingly opposite characters would somehow relate to each other in the end. I will say that the novel was pretty long, it’s 530 pages but I feel like with this kind of story, it was necessary for it to be this long. Given that it was long I read it in almost 1 week. The book didn’t really seem to drag on, and it was split up into very small chapters which really helps the story move along quicker.
The novel really transports you to this war-torn world, where atrocities and horrors happened that I can’t fathom as someone who has never lived through that kind of experience, and that’s what really made me enjoy this book, because every time I picked it up and read it, it was like I was witnessing a part of the past and watching history unfold in the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner. Even though these were fictional characters, the war was the farthest from fictional and the devastation and the loss that people felt during this time period was illustrated on a personal level through the characters that Anthony Doerr has created.
I have so much to say about this book because it was just so good! Maybe in the future I will do a discussion post on it that will contain some spoiler information because I want to start doing more discussion posts in 2016!
I give this novel 4.5/5 stars and anyone who is really into history or historical fiction should pick this up, or if you just want to read a novel that’s extremely beautifully written.
Some of my favourite Quotes from the Novel:
“You know the greatest lesson of history? It’s that history is whatever the victors say it is. That’s the lesson. Whoever wins, that’s who decides the history. We act in our own self-interest. Of course we do. Name me a person or a nation who does not. The trick is figuring out where your interests are.”
“I have been feeling very clearheaded lately and what I want to write about today is the sea. It contains so many colors. Silver at dawn, green at noon, dark blue in the evening. Sometimes it looks almost red. Or it will turn the color of old coins. Right now the shadows of clouds are dragging across it, and patches of sunlight are touching down everywhere. White strings of gulls drag over it like beads.
“When I lost my sight, Werner, people said I was brave. When my father left, people said I was brave. But it is not bravery; I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don’t you do the same?”
“War is a bazaar where lives are traded like any other commodity: chocolate or bullets or parachute silk.”