All The Light We Cannot See: Book Review by Dinh
All The Light We Cannot See Review
This historical fiction novel is about two main characters; Marie-Laure, a young French girl and Werner an orphan German boy.
Marie-Laure LeBlanc lives with her father Daniel, in Paris, near to his place of work. Her father works for the Natural History Museum and is a master locksmith.
Marie-Laure goes blind because of congenital cataracts when she is 6 years old. Her father helps her with her blindness by building a miniature replica of their neighborhood in wood so she can learn to navigate around the city. The Jardin des Plantes is where she starts to learn how to navigate home by counting drains, the intersections and the smell of the plants.
Each year Daniel LeBlanc gives his daughter a birthday present. On her 9th birthday he gives her Jules Verne book, Around the World in Eighty days, in braille.
The German invasion of France in 1940 threatens Marie-Laure and Daniel’s peaceful life. The Museum entrust Daniel with a precious diamond called the ‘Sea of Flames’ to be delivered to a friend of the museum as Daniel prepares to evacuate Paris.
On arriving at Evreux, Daniel discovers that the man he was to give the ‘Sea of Flames’ to is gone and has fled the country and his house is in flames and being ransacked. Daniel decides to go to the only place he knows where he and Marie-Laure would be safe. They go to the coastal town of Saint- Malo where Marie-Laure eccentric great uncle Etienne lives.
Werner Pfennig is an orphan who lives with his sister Jutta in an orphanage, in the mining town Zollverein, Germany. Werner is a talented and gifted boy. He finds a broken radio and discovers that he can fix it by taking it apart and figuring what needs to be fixed. Werner and Jutta stay up late to listen to the radio and are entranced by a Frenchman who comes on talking about science.
Werner’s father died in the coal mines and Werner was told that at the age of 15 he would be sent there too. Werner wants to be a scientist and his fate was changed when he fixed a radio for a Nazi officer who recognized his skills.
Werner is given a chance to get away from the mines when he takes the entrance exams for the National Political Institutes of Education. He passes the exam and is sent to Schulpforta, an elite Nazi school.
Werner’s technical skills are soon spotted by Dr. Hauptmann. The Dr. Hauptmann starts training him and Werner starts learning how to calculate the target’s broadcast using a triangulation method.
Werner’s skills are tested when he is sent around Europe with a special group that tracks, hunts and kills broadcasters that are anti-German. As he tracks the resistance, it leads him to Saint-Malo.
Eventually, Marie-Laure and Werner’s world collide in 1944.
Entwined in the story is another character called Von Rumpel who is a gem expert for the Reich. Von Rumpel obsession to find the real ‘Sea of Flames’ turns him into the villain of the story.
All The Light We Cannot See Recommendation
This is definitely one of the best books that I have read this year. It’s a must read!
I am not surprised that “All the Light We Cannot See” won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2015 and the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, 2015 as well. It’s also on numerous other award lists.
On the first page of the book, with the chapter “Leaflets” I already knew that this was going to be a fantastic book. It is beautifully written and captured my imagination right away.
The story starts off in 1944 and flashes back into Marie-Laure and Werner’s childhood. It alternates between Marie-Laure and Werner’s tale. Doing this gives me some new information as what has lead up to that part and it captivates me as the suspense builds.
The writing is superb. I love the way Anthony Doerr use of descriptive words and enthrall me. Each chapter gives me a bit more of the story as it moves to the present time. The mystery slowly unfolds and it is very satisfying to find out what happens.
I also like the fairy tale aspect of the book. Doerr incorporates a legend of the ‘Sea of Flames’ which suggest that the keeper of the priceless diamond cannot die but their loved one will do so. Von Rumpel becomes the villain as he searches for this diamond as he is dying in hopes that perhaps it will keep him alive.
I loved the dual story of Marie-Laure and Werner and how Werner becomes the light in Marie-Laure life at the critical part when she needs him the most. He becomes the hero and a beacon for all that is right.
The only negative I have to say about “All the Light We Cannot See” is the ending, specifically the flash forward when Jutta meets Marie-Laure was not what I had expected. Although the encounter was brief between the two, I was not satisfied with how it played out. I was hoping to understand a bit more about Jutta’s feelings and Marie-Laure feelings and sentiment.
This book is a masterpiece for Anthony Doerr and I urge you to get All the Light We Cannot see and read it. I promise you that you will enjoy it.
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