Wednesday, December 23, 2015

All the Light We Cannot See (book review #6)

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.

Doerr’s “stunning sense of physical detail and gorgeous metaphors” (San Francisco Chronicle) are dazzling. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, he illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another. Ten years in the writing, a National Book Award finalist, All the Light We Cannot See is a magnificent, deeply moving novel from a writer “whose sentences never fail to thrill” (Los Angeles Times).

GOOD: STOP EVERYTHING AND GO READ THIS BOOK. seriously guys, it was amazing. it is now the best stand-alone book i have ever read. like, gaaaaahhhh.... *flails* *falls over* *cries silently* *lays still* *takes a deep breath* GAAAAAHHH. Here's why: 
a) this book is written from two different view points. you may have heard me rant about the difficulty of this. Doerr NAILS this. i've never read better. Werner is quiet and thoughtful, a constant battleground for good and evil. Marie-Laure is a forest clearing filled with forget-me-nots and daisies, always seeing the good even though her eyes don't let in the light.
b) description: one character is blind, the other is not. seriously, the chapters switch like that. Marie goes by smell, taste, touch, and hearing. She goes by memory, she goes by instinct. she is a sponge for knowledge and her chapters in the book are steeped in it. she is also obsessed with 3-D maps (you'll get that later) and the ocean. Werner, on the other hand, sees everything. His eyes are the sponges, flitting about, pulling in information and analyzing not only the facts but the feelings, the emotions, wondering why at every opportunity. and his chapters. oh golly. his chapters make me cry. and he loves radios. seriously, this kid makes. my. world. although he kinda breaks my heart at the same time.

BAD: there's some language. there's also some really heavy real life stuff. which is difficult to swallow sometimes. one girl gets raped. one character is willing to blow up half of Europe (oh wait, that was Hitler. okay, blowing up the continent would be an exaggeration but you get my point) in order to heal himself. characters are blown up, shot down, impaled, frozen by water in the middle of the night, and some are taken to prison camps. you know what? i fully expected all of that. this is a book written in the middle of the Second World War. There were bad things happening then. a book that doesn't detail these would be lacking historical accuracy and depth. 

DIFFICULTY: the undaunted book queen in me says not hard at all. i mean yeah the book was more than an inch thick BUT HEY who's counting? however, the tiny little girl in me disagrees. for it was indeed a difficult book to read considering the fact that there would be one sentence describing how the field was full of daisies and you could hear a cow's bell in the distance and you could smell the sea and life was normal, and the next sentence would be talking about how the character hadn't eaten in three days and they were on the brink of wishing for death. this wasn't an easy book to read as far as content goes. definitely not for the weak of heart. 

1-10 SCORE: 10. All the way. This book won 6 awards. and it won 6 awards for a reason. it will break your heart and then heal it again. for me, it is forever on my favorites shelf. 
let me put it this way: i normally don't buy books. normally i just borrow them from the library. 
i bought this book. 

OVERVIEW: All the Light We Cannot See is intense, a web of stories and people and facts and myth and time that weave together into one grand climax and leaves you wondering what the purpose of life is. It makes you wonder how you are living today. It makes you think about what you notice, what you give into the world. It changed the way i think. i don't see bad things anymore. i see empty voids capable of good or bad, equally equipped and with equal opportunity to take over that space. at one point in the story Werner is trapped in a basement, listening to a radio. there's absolutely no light, and yet he doesn't feel scared, because the voice that is transmitting over the radio carries light with it. it lights Werner's soul. this scene left me wondering if physical light is not the most important. maybe it is the light that's felt, and heard, the kind that changes our hearts, i think that's what matters. and oh how much there is of it, all the light we cannot see. 

that's what i got out of it.


  1. Replies
    1. Grace Anne - YOU TOTALLY SHOULD!! its deep and its wonderful and oh yes. just, like, yeah - go buy it and read it. you won't regret it! :D

  2. Ah, yes, I agree! I read this book a while ago, and it was amazing... Glad to find someone else who's a fan! :) It reminded me a little bit of 'The Book Thief' only I thought it was much better. Have you read 'The Book Thief'?

    Also, I'm just new to your corner of the internet, and I have to say your 'WHY' page is so good! I really like the verse behind your name; I've never noticed it before. Have a great day & keep up the good work! :)

    1. Hey Jessica! i have read the book thief! its also really good - for some reason i think i connected better with this book...the writing style was a little more like my own. (i think... ?)
      i'm glad you like the blog! you should totally stick around...good things are on the way! :)