*I’m going to do my best to make this spoiler-free, as I want you to immediately purchase this book as soon as you finish this blog post.*
“Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.”
Synopsis: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr follows a myriad of characters, chief of whom are Marie-Laure LeBlanc, a French blind girl, and Werner Pfennig, a German orphan with a knack for fixing radios. As their stories unfold, we see the small connections in their vastly different worlds, as well as a historical context unfamiliar to most of us. Both of these characters are children at the start of World War II, forced to grow up in ways we cannot imagine. Both see the true extent of the war and the goals of the Reich, surrounded by a supporting cast of driven individuals. This story, however, is full of so much more than war and suffering. Doerr pens a symphony with this novel.
Feelings: I. Love. This. Book. I smiled, I mourned, I cried…all of the feels. I thought it was so beautiful and wonderful and necessary. I’ve been reading a lot of YA lit over the last few years, so it was a little more difficult for me to really dig into this bit of historical fiction. A lot of historical fiction I’ve read in the past has been dense, full of facts and things we learned in the classroom. AtLWCS, however, was light and airy, hinting towards the things we should already know. It was heavy, of course, but in a way that forces the reader to remember the context of this story. It’s so much more than just a story, though. It is a nod towards the others who suffered during World War II, whom the world is afraid to speak of.
Characters: The way that Doerr writes Marie-Laure’s character allows the reader to feel and see what it is like to be blind. Marie-Laure does not live in darkness, but rather she is surrounded by the light the rest of us cannot see. Werner’s struggles were particularly heart-wrenching, as he is a pure soul, trapped by a nation’s war mongering. I found myself deeply invested in the lives of all of the characters, not just these two.
Issues: At first, I was picking this book up every few days, which made the timeline of the story hard to follow. Once I committed to reading in 50 page increments, however, the story flowed much better. At the halfway point, I couldn’t put it down. I ended up really enjoying how the timeline was written. I thought the beginning was brilliantly done and I was satisfied with the ending. Sometimes it’s difficult to read a book that doesn’t end how your fingers are crossed it will end, but that just makes this book that much more real.
Comparisons: Initially, I was afraid this book would be from the same vein as The Book Thief (one of my favorites of all time), but I really didn’t see any connections, besides the obvious war setting and young characters. The writing style is very different, as are the characters.
Final thoughts: If you’re willing to commit the time that this story deserves, pick it up. If you’re looking for a quick read that’ll give you the feels, look elsewhere. This is a game-changing book. This is one will stay with you, reminding you to, “open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.” Breathtaking. Flawless. Masterful.
Pick this up if you liked:
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (both stories about World War II with children as main characters)
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (I haven’t read this one, but it’s a popular new release also about WWII with a French perspective)
Goodreads rating: 4.28/5
Amazon.com rating: 4.6/5
My rating: 5/5
Happy reading! – Caitlyn