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23 April 2016

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr - Book Review

All the Light We Cannot See is the ultimate book for fans of historical fiction, World War II fiction and an exceptional writing style. I read it everyday for around two weeks on the way to and back from work and at night before bed, and it never felt like a duty. It's the book that got me back into my usual habit of reading after quite a long time without doing so. I loved it from the beginning to the end, and only felt a few short boring moments, but since it's a lengthy novel, they didn't really count to me.
The book follows two main plot lines. One is about a French blind girl, Marie-Laure, who lives with her father in Paris and who has to flee the city with him to Saint Malo, a little seaside town in Brittany, as the war breaks out; the other one is about Werner, a German boy living in an orphanotrophy who enters the Hitler Youth and later works as a sort of electronical engineer for the army. The book contains many more snippets of the war, including some on the household of four Rue de Vauborel, the life of a jeweller called Von Rumpel during the war, and Werner's friend Frederick's experience in the Hitler Youth.

Something most readers complained about was the late encounter between the two main characters - that, in theory, is what the book is mainly about. While their indirect encounter happens from the beginning, the actual one occurs almost at the end of the book, and feels somewhat magical. The feelings the encounter stirs in both characters are the most powerful element of the entire story and its highest point. I also think that the wait was a bit too long, however it also felt like part of the high quality of the novel. The ending which sees the unfolding of the story is also great and did not disappoint me like many other novels often do.

I was also surprised about the importance of communication mentioned by author Anthony Doerr in this interview, as I did notice it through Marie-Laure and her great-uncle Etienne's radio transmissions and Werner's passion for machines, but I didn't notice how central the topic was. To me, the book was more about human contact, that even though short is eternal in a time such as the war. I had the same feeling when reading Suite Fran├žaise where two characters (who also happen to be French and German) have a short contact but which will last in their memories. This is especially true in the film version.

What the book stands out for its exceptional writing style. The choice of singular words, the sentences created are superb, and that goes for all chapters. Even though one didn't like the plot of the book, they could go on reading just because of how incredible the storytelling sounds.

From its first pages, I fell in love with this book and it will always hold a place in my bookish heart :) I think you need to be a certain age to read it as it's a bit raw, and maybe in a happy time of your life as it's quite dark at some points. However, it is wonderful and hence in need to be on your reading list!

My edition: Anthony Doerr 2014. All The Light We Cannot See. Harper Collins: London. Pages: 530. Font is big enough and cover is fantastic!

Goodreads: 5/5 stars!

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