Review: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr


Publisher: Fourth Estate
Release Date: January 15, 2015 (First released May 6, 2014)
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780007548699
Pages: 531
Read in: May 2015
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Goodreads Summary:

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).

It’s hard to find the right words to describe this book, but it was absolutely fantastic. Everything from the writing, the character and the plot development was just amazing. Such a powerful, moving story that everyone will be able to love.

The story takes place in Germany and France during WWII and we follow a blind-girl, Marie-Laure and Werner, a German orphan who is really good at repairing radios, through their respective journeys that intertwine. What I really liked about this book was the structure of it. It’s told from multiple perspectives, and jumps back and forth in time, so it is a little confusing at first, but after about 50 pages I got used to it and really enjoyed it. I also really liked how each chapter was really short – it keeps you hanging and turning the pages quickly to find out what happens next.

The writing was definitely the first thing I fell in love with. It’s so poetic and full of imagery and other literary techniques that is beautiful to read. There are so many lines in this book that are really memorable.

“Her father radiates a thousands colours, opal, strawberry red, deep russet, wild green; a smell of oil and metal, the feel of a lock tumbler sliding home, the sound of his key rings chiming as he walks in”.


The book is also filled with many symbols and objects that Doerr manages to weave so cleverly into all the plot and character arcs. It’s really satisfying in that one moment to see how all the individual stories will connect together.

Although it does explore the story of characters before the war, it’s also a story about the nature of war and how it can tear apart a childhood. Marie-Laure is blind, and her family is torn apart by the war. Werner also suffers from the war, with his friends and his childhood ripped away from him. I think it’s also worth noting that there isn’t a romance in this book. It’s more about family love, and how war tears these bonds apart.

As a history student who is currently studying Germany during the Nazi period, I can confirm that it is historically accurate. I love how you can see through the characters, the implementation of Gleichschaltung and Volksgemeinschaft in German society, and see how it affects different people individually. Also, seeing the war from two different perspectives, the German and the French was also really interesting. In saying this, you don’t need to know anything about the context to enjoy this novel. Of course it helps, but I think the book explains it well enough.

So in short, I loved it. Every moment, every word is a pleasure to read, and it’s a book that will just blow your mind.

Rating: ★★★★★

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6 thoughts on “Review: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

  1. This was so beautifully written. Each chapter was more poignant and touching than the last. I didn’t know the whole scope of its historical accuracy, and I’m glad it stays true to the reality of both sides of the war. Great review (and gorgeous cover — I love mine, but this is a different kind of stunning.)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Top Ten Tuesday: Top Reads of 2016 | Kaleidoscope of Books

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