Sometimes I struggle to write a review. Not true this time. All the Light We Cannot See was sent to me by the publisher in two forms - audio and hardback print. It's wonderful. I was mesmerized from the beginning. The plot would seem to circle around the lose of a famous diamond that is cursed and housed in the Museum of Natural History in Paris. It is said that whoever possesses the diamond will live forever but will lose all his friends and family, one by one. So the story begins.
Yet this is a tale of war and of the people it affects. There is a French girl, Marie-Laure, who is blind who lives with her beloved father who works as a locksmith for the museum. There is an orphan boy, Werner, who is entranced with radios and how they work and finds himself recruited into German youth training. There is a self-centered general, Von Rumpel, whose cruelty is matched only by his drive to find the diamond that may save his life. These are key characters, yes, but others add so much depth.
Marie-Laure's uncle and his housekeeper are active in the resistance and risk their lives daily. The reader can't help but experience their fear and courage as they continue to work against German occupation. There is Werner's sister, Jutta, who struggles to survive starvation, rape and war itself and thinking often about her brother. Volkheimer, the gentle giant with a cruel reputation, was a friend to Werner but whose friendship he questions. Will he expose Werner's actions when they do not support the war? And, there is Frederick whose love for birds and independent thought expose him to beatings during training that damage his brain yet leave him living.
Can I write more? Yes, there is the reality of war, hope and survival expressed over and over again. This is a novel to be read, experienced and remembered. I absolutely loved it and can't recommend it enough. I'm overjoyed that the publisher sent it.
Beautifully written with characters you care for immediately. Marie is a blind French girl and her story is told in alternating short chapters along with a very intelligent German youth named Werner during the occupation of France in WW2.
The only problem I had was the time shifts, as I found myself having to go back to see which time period I was reading about. Otherwise, the story was intriguing enough to keep me reading until the end. It was a sad story, but had a satisfactory conclusion. Excellent book which I wholeheartedly recommend.
This was the February 2015 pick in my online book club, The Reading Cove.
I must say, I have mixed feelings about this read. On one hand, I thought the writing was very elegant, beautifully poetic and high quality. But on the other hand, the execution of the time shifts seriously choked the pacing of the narrative far too much. The brief glimpse a few years ahead was engaging, but once the narrative shifted into the main backstory, the train almost stopped moving altogether! What's more, the technique wasn't even used for foreshadowing or to create mystery. There seemed to be no real purpose for the time shifts at all.
Werner, a young German boy, and Marie-Laure, a young French girl, both come to life in this WWII period and the author's descriptions of how each discovers all the light they cannot see is definitely worthwhile. The writing has a rich texture to it, and creates a great sense of atmosphere, but in the end, I was disappointed and found myself eager to get to the end.
Overall, would I be willing to read more from this author? Yes, I would. The quality of the writing was impressive enough to overshadow the pacing issue I didn't care for. B-/C+
I did enjoy this book. I have to say that I wish I hadn't read it immediately after finishing The Book Thief, which I absolutely loved. Both books take place in the early 40's , from the points of view of people on different sides of that horrible time in Germany and France. All of the stories are captivating, I just felt more for Markus Zusak's characters.
All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is a World War II story, but it is not about the politics, battles, winners, or losers of the war. It is about two young individuals - one on either side of the conflict - who are both victims of the war. The intricate, circular structure of the book between Marie-Laure's story and Werner's story provides a beautiful rhythm and flow to the story.
Read my complete review at: http://www.memoriesfrombooks.com/2014/09/all-light-we-cannot-see.html