Book Review: "All The Light We Cannot See" by Anthony Doerr
Next in my reading list is Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See. I have a lot to say about this wonderful book but as always I will begin with the book's summary and a spoiler warning for the review ahead:
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.
Before this book I had never before encountered Anthony Doerr, and after completing my read of his book, I'm really disappointed I hadn't. We've each had our own first encounter with masterful fiction and non-fiction pieces depicting World War Two (mine had been Number the Stars by Lois Lowry), and each gave us that haunting chill of a first-look at our world's most terrifying years. Several aspects of this book amazed me, and having that same first-look chill come back to me is where it pretty much starts.
Arguably by adulthood we will come to the mentality that we've heard everything would could possibly hear about the Second World War (hours of watching the history channel and sitting through history classes through college trick you into thinking so), but Doerr adds a new, fresh take on our two main characters navigating war-torn Europe.
The next aspect of this book that amazes me is the main characters, Marie-Laure LeBlanc and Werner Pfennig. Doerr's writing Marie's sensory world was a jaw-dropping experience that gave the world around her in intricate lens of frightful experiences. It was also a tear-jerking experience to witness Marie's father's endless investment in attempting to compensate for the loss of her eyesight and endearing from beginning to end.
Werner's life in this story is much more grim, which is immediately interesting when contrasting his life against Marie's who was privileged. To avoid too many spoilers, Werner basically climbs the ranks through his admittance to a Nazi school only to discover the genius he inherited from his father and invests it into working with electrical circuits.
The title of this book, at this point in the story, becomes blatantly clear as Doerr takes his time to educate you through a late-1930s radio broadcast, about the brain's power to create light in darkness. This broadcast also enlightens (pun not intended) the reader to one of dozens of connections between Marie and Werner that had been present throughout the chapters of this book.
This book is intricate, this story is heart breaking, and we have Doerr to thank for all of it. All The Light We Cannot See is a wonderful read no avid reader should miss out on.