all the light we cannot see

Book Review: All the Light We Cannot See - by Anthony Doerr

2:30 PM

Summary from goodreadsMarie-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.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Haunting, evocative, and alluring, All the Light We Cannot See captures and depicts the quietest and loudest moments of a devastating war. Its detail and meticulous prose fills the novel with a hushed suspense, one that gives the reader a sense of foreboding and trepidation. It's a novel that teaches and puzzles its readers. It's a novel that, despite its merits, has its flaws.

All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr starts off at a crawl and drags on. It's slow, to say the least. While at times its pace certainly establishes the ominous atmosphere, serving as a reinforcement for the foreboding the reader is meant to feel, it could also be seen as a detrimental aspect of the novel, (especially since there were other qualities that served the same purpose of suspense).

With the slow beginning came an arguably unsatisfactory ending. The way the suspense was built up, slowly and carefully, provoked the reader into expecting great things. But the moment the readers were waiting for, the moment when all three story lines collided, was fleeting.

However, this is where the criticisms end.

All the Light We Cannot See is a masterfully written novel with a strong foundation, an organized structure, and an unbelievable amount of detail. Its captivating and descriptive language locked the reader's attention from the beginning and its voice put the readers in a trance. The way the characters were built is also worthy of praise. Each character with their different backstories and different personalities and relationships made the novel all the more mesmerizing. Although the characters moved around the plot and changed with events, the attention given to the characters made it seem as if the plot moved around the characters. As if the characters were in charge and if anything were to happen to any of them there would be nothing to read about, even though logically there would be plenty.

There is so much good in All the Light We Cannot See it easily outweighs the faults. It is definitely a book I would recommend for the patient and historical fiction fanatics.

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  1. Great review. I read this last month and loved it. I agree that it is slow, but the writing is so good that I didn’t mind.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

    1. That's exactly how I felt about it. The writing was so beautiful it made up for everything else in a way.