Book Review: “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr

11838971_10207291902765372_2833438430055741289_oI told you I liked historical fiction set in World War II, so here’s another one. This is the story of two (nearly) starcrossed (nearly) lovers (maybe) in France in the middle of the war. You’ve got the blind Parisian girl and the young German orphan who’s been enlisted in the German army. What follows is a tale of such emotion and beautiful heartache that you won’t want it to end. And when it does, you’ll cry and wish it ended differently.

This book is a massive volume, with the hardcover clocking in at 531 pages. Once you start reading it, however, those pages seem to disappear. Doerr manages to seamlessly blend Marie-Laure’s point of view with Werner’s, as their worlds move ever closer to collision. Marie-Laure begins the novel at the age of twelve, and we see her age as the novel and the war progresses. She lives in Paris with her grandfather, who’s made a miniature replica of the streets so she can feel it and know her way around, although they are forced to flee when the Nazi troops occupy the town. They make their way to a small seaside village, where she has to relearn a whole new world.

Werner is an orphan whose talent with building earns him a coveted spot in the Hitler Youth, a place he never wanted to be. He witnesses horrors beyond imagination during his stint with them, and knows he can never be an accessory to the atrocities they commit. He ends up going straight through the darkest parts of the war, witnessing and committing crimes that make his conscience sick. As he draws closer to the seaside town where Marie-Laure resides, he knows he will have to soon make an irrevocable choice.

The language Doerr uses is beautiful and haunting. It fits perfectly with the haunting tone of the book. It’s not scary, it’s not ethereal, but it’s something that will stick with you long after you finish reading it. It’s a book that’s not for the faint of heart, or maybe it’s perfectly suited for those with the faintest of hearts. The message of empathy and just pure human soul is the strongest.

I feel like I have to give this book 5/5, with a strongly recommended rating. It’s something that everyone needs to read, at least once. It’s a book that’s got so much emotion behind it, and so much research to boot, that it’ll take you on a roller coaster of tears at the very end. I’m by no means an expert on World War II, and by no means an expert on everything that’s going down in this book, but I feel really attached to it, and I feel like I’m going to have to reread it again sometime soon.

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From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the stunningly beautiful 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 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.

  • Hardcover: 531 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Published: May 6, 2014
  • ISBN-13: 978-1501132872

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