Review: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Genre: Historical fiction

Rating: 3.0/5.0

Takeaway: Beautifully written novel, but does not live up to the hype

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All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr follows two children as they face the horrors of World War II. Marie-Laure is a blind French girl, who must face German-occupied France on her own, all the while the Nazis believe she is in possession of a priceless artifact. Werner is a German orphan who joins the Hitler Youth in order to follow his passion of science and engineering. The two characters’ lives – so seemingly different – twist and converge together in various ways that remind the reader that no matter how different and divided man can become, there’s a universality that brings us all together.

An interesting theme in this novel is the concept of blindness – both physical and willful. The perspective of a blind girl in wartime is a unique one. There is something to be said here about World War II being the darkest time in history; and here, Marie-Laure LeBlanc, though she cannot see, she will not be left in the darkness. She envisions lights and colors emanating from those around her – an embodiment of the light and love with which she understands the world. On the other hand, Werner, willfully blind to the chaos and pain surrounding him and sometimes inflicted by him, lacks that vision of light that he so desperately needs.

This book came very highly praised and recommended to me, so I had very high expectations, and unfortunately I finished this novel disappointed. Though the storyline and the symbolism that Doerr creates is beautiful, I expected more from such a highly praised book; I felt that I spent much of the book waiting for something to happen, and that the short chapters and alternating narrators did not allow for deep character development. If I had not read so much about this book before I think I would’ve enjoyed it much more, but it simply didn’t live up to what I expected.

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