“From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, a stunningly ambitious and beautiful novel about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.
Marie Laure lives with her father in Paris within walking distance of the Museum of Natural History where he works as the master of the locks (there are thousands of locks in the museum). When she is six, she goes blind, and her father builds her a model of their neighborhood, every house, every manhole, so she can memorize it with her fingers and navigate the real streets with her feet and cane. When the Germans occupy Paris, father and daughter flee to Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast, where Marie-Laure’s agoraphobic great uncle lives in a tall, narrow house by the sea wall.
In another world in Germany, an orphan boy, Werner, grows up with his younger sister, Jutta, both enchanted by a crude radio Werner finds. He becomes a master at building and fixing radios, a talent that wins him a place at an elite and brutal military academy and, ultimately, makes him a highly specialized tracker of the Resistance. Werner travels through the heart of Hitler Youth to the far-flung outskirts of Russia, and finally into Saint-Malo, where his path converges with Marie-Laure.
Doerr’s gorgeous combination of soaring imagination with observation is electric. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another. Ten years in the writing, All the Light We Cannot See is his most ambitious and dazzling work.”
– Taken from Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18143977-all-the-light-we-cannot-see)
I’d like to thank NetGalley and Scribner for providing me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review.
I discovered this book thanks to a BBC feature named ‘The 10 New Best Books To Read’ (here’s the link if you’d like to check it out: http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20140227-the-10-best-new-books-to-read). I was immediately intrigued by the synopsis given there and by the fact that it a historical romance. At the time I read this feature, the book had not yet been published, so off I went to NetGalley, to see if it was there. Surprise number one, it was available for request. Surprise number two, I was approved for it.
This book is told in alternating POVs and goes back and forth in time. We get to know Marie-Laure, a French girl, who is blind. She lives with her father, a man who is entirely devoted to her and to trying to make her more independent. The way he goes about it shows his devotion to his daughter. At the same time, because he is the only parent she has, Marie-Laure is incredibly attached to him. The other POV focuses on Werner, a German boy, who grew up in an orphanage with his sister. From an early age, he showed a keen interest on radios, and has the skills to match. Because of this, he is admitted into a military school and then joins the German army.
Because of the shifts in time, it could have been a confusing book, but it wasn’t. This aspect was masterfully done. At first, I couldn’t see how the two characters would ever meet, but they do, in a quite surprising way. And they then learn that they are linked by much more than they thought.
As a big part of this book is set in World War II, the two characters had to grow very quickly, thanks to losses and the horrors they witness. However, this is not a story about hopelessness. It is a story about growth, not only of our two main characters, but also of the characters that surround them. Marie-Laure, in particular, has a way of touching people around her that is astonishing.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5