All the Light we cannot see is a historical fiction set during WWII, and written by Anthony Doerr. It has been on my TBR for ages, and if you are reading my Teaser Tuesday posts, you may have seen it around on my blog already, as I started it in August. And now that I have finished it I feel like I will never be the same again…
Published in 2014
Winner of the Pulitzer Price
Genre: Historical Fiction, WWII
My rating: ★★★★✩
All the Light we cannot see is the story of teenagers during the war, of survival, and of a mysterious diamond, the Sea of Flames. It follows Marie-Laure, a French girl who turned blind at six, and lives with her father, who is a locksmith at a museum in Paris. When the war breaks out, they flee to Saint-Malo, where her great-uncle lives. And it follows Werner, a German orphan who loves science and radios. He is actually very talented at it, and when an opportunity shows up, he gets a place in an elite military school. But is this what he really wants?
All the Light we cannot see takes the reader all around a Europe ravaged by the war, through the perspectives of different characters. It is an incredibly moving and beautiful story.
This book has received so much praise, I had to read it eventually. I love historical fiction, so it only made sense. However, when I got my hands on it, I realised how huge it was, and that is probably why I struggled so much at the beginning.
All the Light we cannot see is made of very short chapters, each only a few pages, changing between the perspectives of Werner and Marie-Laure, and sometimes other characters. This is something I really enjoyed, and it actually made it easy to move through this book, however big it was. The only thing I have to reproach to this book is that sometimes I felt the story was a bit slow. Otherwise, I have nothing to say.
It is a really emotional read, both because of the situation of the characters, who find themselves trapped in the midst of this never ending war, and of course, because of the context. World War Two is a period I find extremely fascinating, but every time I read a book set at this time, I realise how horrible it was. What I really enjoyed is that this book mostly showed the facts and let the reader deal with them, make up their mind. And for me, it was very emotional.
Anthony Doerr’s writing is incredible, I swear it really deserves all the praise. It manages to be horrible, heartbreaking, shocking, and at the same time incredibly beautiful and poetic.
It is blurbed as a page-turner, but for me, it was more than this. It was an incredible read, but also a hard one, and I had to take lots of breaks while reading, because sometimes, it was too much. This book has an incredible power.
Finally, a short word on the characters. Marie-Laure and Werner are both very different, but are also both unique characters. I don’t think I have ever read a story with such characters (though it did occasionally remind me of The Book Thief, the characters are very different). I wouldn’t say that they are relatable, because they both have a strong will of their own, but they do feel so very human, and that’s probably why I loved them so much. This is a story of survival, and whether doing good or bad things, they are doing their best to survive, to get through this war and carry on with their lives. And that’s what made this book so powerful and beautiful.
If you like historical fiction and stories set during WWII, then this is a must read! If you are looking for a beautiful, moving and powerful book, then this is also definitely something I would recommend.