All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Rating: 3 stars
I know I’m in the minority here, but I just don’t get why everyone loved this book. I thought it was good, but it’s just a typical historical fiction novel about WWII. I went into it with extremely high expectations because of the hype (and a persistent friend who insisted I read it because it was capital A-mazing), but it fell short to me.
All the Light We Cannot See focuses on two children in Europe before and during WWII. Marie-Laure is the blind daughter of the master locksmith for the Museum of Natural History in Paris. Despite her blindness, she is raised by her father to be an adventuress child enthralled by the masterpieces of Jules Verne. When Paris is about to be captured he is entrusted with an important gemstone from the museum and sent out of the city. He andMarie-Laure travel to the seaside town of Saint-Malo where his reclusive uncle lives, still suffering from PTSD from WWI.
Werner is an orphan growing up in a mining town in Germany on the eve of the war. His talent with radios lands him on the radar of a high ranking official in the party, and he is sent to a school for the top children of the Reich. Spending his childhood listening to radio broadcasts from all over the world, Werner has a hard time trying to follow the Nazi rhetoric of a greater German population that must control the the world. He also has great empathy for those targeted by ‘his’ side, more than enough to torment him once the human cost of his missions becomes clear.
Werner andMarie-Laure’s stories intersect during one climatic day near the end of the war, in a last ditch effort for the Germans to capture Saint-Malo before the Allies arrive.
I liked the radio and science aspects of the story and how important they were to Werner’s independence. I also liked the story and search for the gemstone, but it felt weird to have a search for a mythic gem in a WWII story. It seemed out of place with the gritty reality the author tried to paint of life in France and Germany during the war. Also, the time jumps were a nice trick but not really necessary in my opinion.
Overall it’s a decent historical novel that shows a detailed and horrific look at Europe during WWII through two of the children caught up in it. I recommend it as long as you set your expectations accordingly.