Monday, May 4, 2015

Review: All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Title: All The Light We Cannot See
Author: Anthony Doerr
Publication Date: May 6th, 2014
Publisher: Scribner
Source: Bought it
Where to find: Goodreads / Amazon / Book Depository
Summary: 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 Marie-Laure 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.
“What is blindness? Where there should be a wall, her hands find nothing. Where there should be nothing, a table leg gouges her shin. Cars growl in the streets; leaves whisper in the sky; blood rustles through her inner ears. In the stairwell, in the kitchen, even beside her bed, grown-up voices speak of despair.” - pg. 27
I do not know where to begin with this book. The writing in it is absolutely beautiful. Anthony Doerr's prose is amazingly intertwined within the story. This is one of those books that you need to read slowly, so that you can absorb everything within it. When reading books, I tend to mark favorite passages and quotes and I have so many pages marked in this book. There were so many beautiful passages about all different kinds of things and about life.

The main aspect of this book that made it so great for me was definitely the writing, but I also loved the characters. For the most part we follow Marie-Laure and Werner but even beyond them there are so many different stories unfolding throughout this book. Since this book was told in multiple perspectives, I knew at some point all the stories would become intertwined and we would learn about all the connections between the characters. Anthony Doerr surprised me though with the shear number of different connections that were all encompassed within this book. Even the smallest little details had some connection to the overarching story.

The only reason I am not giving this a full five crowns is due to how slow and long it took me to get into the story. That is not to say that I did not enjoy it, but there is a lot of description and time before the plot really picks up. It takes a very long time to introduce the story. Another aspect that was slightly off-putting was the changing timelines. While the book focused on WWII there were jumps in the chapters all falling somewhere between 1941 and 1945 and at times it was confusing after the year changed. However, even though the book was slow, I had no problem reading it because the writing more than made up for the slow aspect. There were times where I had to tell myself to stop reading so I did not rush and could absorb everything I was reading.

This book also ends in a very different way than what I was expecting. I also appreciated how wide open the ending is. It leaves the reading without all the answers but also has a level of finality to it. For someone who does not typically read historical fiction, this was an amazing book. I really enjoyed this book and I cannot recommend it to everyone enough. The writing alone should be enough to at least make you give this book a chance.

Have you read this yet? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

And because I loved the writing so much, here is another quote from the book.
"Streets sucked empty one by one. Each time she steps outside, she becomes aware of all the windows above her. The quiet is fretful, unnatural. It's what a mouse must feel, she things, as it steps from its hole into the open blades of a meadow, never knowing what shadow might come cruising above." - pg. 274

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