Number of Pages: 531
Release Date: May 6, 2014
“Marie Laure lives with her father in Paris within walking distance of the Museum of Natural History where he works as the master of the locks (there are thousands of locks in the museum). When she is six, she goes blind, and her father builds her a model of their neighborhood, every house, every manhole, so she can memorize it with her fingers and navigate the real streets with her feet and cane. When the Germans occupy Paris, father and daughter flee to Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast, where Marie-Laure’s agoraphobic great uncle lives in a tall, narrow house by the sea wall.
In another world in Germany, an orphan boy, Werner, grows up with his younger sister, Jutta, both enchanted by a crude radio Werner finds. He becomes a master at building and fixing radios, a talent that wins him a place at an elite and brutal military academy and, ultimately, makes him a highly specialized tracker of the Resistance. Werner travels through the heart of Hitler Youth to the far-flung outskirts of Russia, and finally into Saint-Malo, where his path converges with Marie-Laure.”
I’m not sure if words can accurately show how much I loved and appreciated this novel, but I guess I’ll give it a go nevertheless.
I cannot say enough amazing things about this novel. Even the general genre of it is brilliant- it’s a unique blend of fantasy (as shown by the Sea of Flames, a diamond the characters believe will let its owner live forever while simultaneously setting a curse upon the owner’s loved ones) and historical fiction (as shown by the World War II setting). Elements of both genres are blended seamlessly together, and it seems as though one could not exist without the other in this incredible story. The setting is the backdrop for everything that happens, but the fantastical aspects drive the characters and add depth and humanity to their personalities.
Moreover, Anthony Doerr’s writing is stunning, gorgeous, and positively BEAUTIFUL. From the very first page I knew I would love this novel in some regard, if not because of the story than because of the author’s impeccable writing style. There are a lot of short sentences, yet it flows and seems lyrical instead of choppy. Everything is described in just the right amount of detail- I could clearly imagine the story in my mind, but the descriptions didn’t slow down the pace of the plot. Despite the fact that I have never visited Europe or seen the narrow streets, lush gardens, or impressive landmarks that are featured in this story I felt as though I could picture them nonetheless. Doerr’s comparisons, metaphors, and use of figurative language in general are simple but so, so brilliant. Here is an example of one the countless passages that I read over and over again in admiration:
“Now it is as if she can hear the pendulum in the air in front of her: that huge golden bob, as wide across as a barrel, swinging on and on, never stopping. Grooving and regrooving its inhuman truth into the floor.” ~ page 207
Needless to say the writing is definitely one of my favorite aspects of this novel.
Then there are the multiple different perspectives, which I also dearly loved. The story flips between the past and the present, and within those parameters the point of view also switches mainly between Marie-Laure and Werner. Not only did this add suspense, but it also gave the story much more depth and dimension. I grew attached to these characters because I was able to see them grow and change over time, and I could see Werner’s brilliance and Marie-Laure’s courage blossom before my eyes. Although I did expect more romance between these two characters, I feel as though that would have contradicted the overall tone of the novel. Their relationship was meaningful yet fleeting, heartfelt yet rushed. But that is what the setting and plot clearly called for, and I appreciate the fact that the author did not attempt to force a relationship that was not meant to flourish in such a time and place.
And the ending, my goodness! It was incredibly tragic, though again I think it suited the general feeling of the novel. I loved how the story was told all the way up to 2014. It’s rare that a story continues to be told after its main plot is played out, and I felt like I was being shown a precious peek at the lives of the characters beyond their time in the stage’s spotlight. The connection to modern times is a sharp reminder that there are still people alive today who experienced and were profoundly impacted by WWII, something that I think is extremely important to remember.
Overall, All the Light We Cannot See is an absolutely breath-taking novel that I could not stop reading until I had turned the very last page. It’s definitely one of the best books I’ve read in 2014 and one of my favorite historical fiction novels of all time.
My Rating: :0) :0) :0) :0) :0) 5 out of 5 smileys.
Would I recommend it to a friend?: Absolutely! I would highly recommend this to anyone and everyone!
Have you ever read this book? What were your thoughts on it? Let me know in the comments section below!