Title: All The Light We Cannot See
Author: Anthony Doerr
Anthony Doerr’s All The Light We Cannot See is the most stunning novel I have ever read. It is a beautiful tale of Marie-Laure, a young blind girl living in Paris, and Werner, a young orphan boy living in Germany on the cusp of the Second World War. Doerr intricately weaves the plot of these two lives seamlessly over eighty years, beginning in 1934 and ending in 2014, pulling the reader into the cruelness and kindness that war brings.
Doerr sets the novel out in small two to three page chapters changing between Marie-Laure and Werner. He also flicks back and forth between the 1944 event where the town they are both living in is heavily bombed, and 1934 where both characters are innocent children displaced by obligations of survival because of the war.
Marie-Laure is a mesmerizing character. She fills the pages with an innocence and bravery that I have never seen. Her father takes her to live with his brother in a seaside town of Saint-Malo. Together with her uncle, Marie-Laure helps transmit personal messages and secret codes over their radio they’ve kept illegally. Doerr is able to leave the reader as blind as Marie-Laure by using only senses of touch, smell and sound to describe the destruction and beauty of the world around her. So much is missing from a lack of sight yet it creates a feeling of anxiousness that fills a void underneath all her chapters. She will draw out maternal instincts you never knew you had and make you feel fear and suspense all at once.
By leaving the reader with a visual blockage in their mind, it is a refreshing burst of light to move into the chapters of Werner, a snowy-haired young boy who is a mastermind with building and fixing radios. Werner’s task is to hunt down people all over the French countryside using their radios and kill them. But even during the most brutal of tasks, he still emits a kindness and a sense of desperation of having to choose what is right by war and what is right by his own morals. He is a relatable character trying to do good by the memory of his younger sister.
Doerr incorporates a touch of magic through the novel by creating a myth about the Sea of Flames – a blue diamond with a fiery red center. Marie-Laure’s father is a locksmith at the Museum of Natural History and is given the diamond to look after during the war. He hides it in the miniature neighbourhood he constructs for Marie-Laure so that she can find her way around the township. It is a small glimmer of light that weaves in and out of the barbarity of the war and gives the characters and readers hope of a higher power controlling the world.
This novel will open your eyes to the inhumanity that war brings on a personal level for those who are the most vulnerable. It is purely magnificent, deeply moving and will linger in your mind for days. If you are going to read one novel this year, make it this one. Words cannot describe the beauty this novel beholds.
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Categories: Book Review
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