Thursday, July 31, 2014

Review: All The Light We Cannot See

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Publisher: Scribner 2014

Format & Page Count: Hardcover 530 pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

Date read: July 31, 2014

My rating: 4 stars

Summary (from Goodreads)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.

Doerr's gorgeous combination of soaring imagination with observation is electric. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another. Ten years in the writing, All the Light We Cannot See is his most ambitious and dazzling work.

My Thoughts: Before I dive in, I want to take a moment to appreciate the sheer beauty of the cover, which was one of the reasons I decided to buy this book. I had heard a few people on YouTube say that they loved this book, which also definitely intrigued me. What ultimately really hooked me was the fact that it is a new approach to World War II fiction. One of my favorite things to read about is World War II. I have no idea why, but I have a strange fascination with that era. Immediately I had high expectations for this book.

I'm not sure if this is due to the expectations I had, but I thought this book had a slow start. I became familiar with the characters quite quickly and after initial characterization, the exposition dragged out. This may have also been caused by my slight confusion while reading. The story is not set in chronological order; it is separated into thirteen parts which scatter the timeline. About halfway through everything starts to fall into place and becomes easier to follow. 

After I got comfortable with the timeline, I started to fly through this book because I was so engrossed with the characters and their stories. I needed to know how all the little details littered throughout the book lined up and I needed to know how the stories of Marie-Laure and Werner would intertwine. This book had my complete attention and I wanted nothing to distract me while I finished it. Within the last hundred pages, innumerable emotions flew through me from fear to joy to heartbreak, yet I loved every second of it. 

Overall, this book is worthy of the praise it has received thus far. The stories are so beautifully written that it is impossible to not fall in love with the characters and feel as if you are there with them. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, specifically concerning World War II, or anyone who wants to read a beautifully written story.

If you are looking for even more of a push to read this book, here is a video of the author explaining how he came up with his inspiration:

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