Published: May 2014
Genre: Historical Fiction, War
Age Category: Adult
From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the beautiful, stunningly ambitious instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.
Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. 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, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.
All The Light We Cannot See is hands down one of the most beautifully written novels I have ever read. This book is the reason why I lost so many hours of sleep; it was just so incredibly difficult to put down once I got into it.
Set during World War II, the novel tells two stories. First there is the story of Marie Laurie, a blind French girl who lives in Paris with her father, the locksmith of the National Museum. When the city becomes occupied by the Nazi’s, the two are forced to flee to Saint-Malo where her great uncle resides. Then there is the story of Werner Pfennig, a young boy raised in an orphanage in Germany with his younger sister, Jutta. Werner, along with the other boys, was destined to work in the mines when he was to turn 15, but his remarkable intelligence and ability to build and fix radios eventually gets him noticed, and lands him a place at the National Political Institute of Education at Schulpforta.
Despite telling two completely different stories at once with a series of flashbacks every few chapters, it was surprisingly very easy to follow. The novel is written in short, sweet ‘scenes’ that each last about 3 pages each, which I found is one of the main reasons the book is so hard to put down. It’s so, so easy to tell yourself, ‘just one more chapter’.
There are many moral complexities associated with the story, which I think is one of the main reasons why I love this book so much. Doerr does a fantastic job at showing how a war affects both sides, it affects everyone. Wars are purposeless, and in the end, there truly is no winner.
I very much like both Marie-Laurie and Werner’s characters, though I admit that I did enjoy Werner’s story slightly more. Throughout the entire time that I was reading, I was trying to figure out how Doerr was going to link the two completely different stories together, and when they finally do meet, the story got so much better. However, the two characters only knew each other for a few pages so I was a bit disappointed. I was honestly really looking forward to seeing a strong friendship develop between the two.
This is a book I would definitely recommend for lovers of historical fiction- I know for a fact I learned a hell lot from this book. But honestly, this novel is a real tear-jerker. It actually kind of reminds me of The Kite Runner in the sense that it’s just sadness after sadness…but the All The Light We Cannot See’s ending was definitely a lot more satisfying.
What I loved about the ending of this book is that there are no cliff-hangers whatsoever. The author makes clear what happens to every single character in the end, even the ‘less important’ ones.
One thing I have many questions about is the ‘Sea of Flames’, a valuable stone from the National Museum that Marie Laurie’s father carried with him when they left Paris in order to protect it. The story behind the stone is that whoever is in possession of it gets to ‘live forever,’ but all of their close friends and family will surely die. I am still trying to understand the link between the stone and the story – I mean, surely the author would not have added it for no reason? And I really doubt the stone is responsible for any of the deaths that occurred in the novel…maybe it was to spice things up? I don’t know. But if you have read the book, I would love to hear your opinion on this :]
Also, I really think this book would make a brilliant film. I hope they make one soon!
Thank you for reading!