Review: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

I received an e-arc of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the book in any way.

Publisher: Fourth Estate

Published: May 2014

Pages: 531



Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, a New York Times Book Review Top Ten Book, National Book Award finalist, more than two and a half years on the New York Times bestseller list.

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 Pfenning, 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 Thoughts…

After having heard massive praise for this book, my expectations were sky high. I’m happy to report I wasn’t disappointed in the slightest. All the Light We Cannot See is a wonderful read in all possible ways.

Masterfully narrated, this book introduces us to the lives of French Marie Laure and German Werner immediately before the start of World War II. A sad chapter of human history that many before have covered before, here it’s presented from a fresh perspective. We follow our protagonists as history slowly takes their lives over, turning their world upside down. For Marie Laure, change starts when she is forced to leave Paris with her beloved father and, through various twists of fate, ends up in Saint Malo, where she will form an unlikely bond with her reclusive great uncle. For poor, orphan Werner, fate comes knocking as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to escape his fate in the local mines by enrolling in an exclusive school where his talents will be cultivated.

The cast of characters is as varied as it is colourful, and even the most minor characters feel fully developed, with their own personalities, dreams and fears, and they linger in memory long after the final page has been turned. Marie Laure and Werner, however, hold a special place in my heart. Marie Laure is blind, but still manages to see more than most, and her relationship with her father first and her great uncle Etienne later were some of the most tender I can remember reading recently. Werner is stuck between his dreams and his fears, honestly drawn with all his complexities and mistakes, but is ultimately ready to do anything to achieve redemption. He represents all those good people in difficult situations anywhere at any time who, for various reasons, end up on the wrong side of history and have to live with the consequences of that… or fight against their seemingly sealed fate.

Overall, an absolutely excellent read. I simply could not put this book down (and I may or may not have missed my stop on the train because of this…), and even weeks after having finished it, it lingers in my thoughts. Absolutely recommended to everyone!

Rating: 5/5


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