All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is a World War 2 story about a young blind French girl, a German boy, and a Nazi officer’s obsessive hunt. Both Marie-Laure and Werner are struggling to survive the devastation of the war, though they do so in different ways.
The book itself is quite choppy in that it switches perspective and moves back and forth in time. Thus, you could be reading about 1944 in one chapter and then 1940 in another, or about Werner in one and Marie-Laure in another. Due to the switching in time and perspective, I found this book a little harder to grasp than a book written in chronological order. Thus, I would caution those looking for a simple read away from this novel.
With that said, I think that this book is definitely worth the read if you put the time into it. The first thing that intrigued me after opening the book and beginning to read was the way it was written. The language and sentence structure is different from what I have read recently. Anthony Doerr did really well with added what came off poetic to me. The writing style really went into significant detail. I think it added a richness to the story. It also, in my opinion, fit in a way as Marie-Laure is blind. The description kind of feels like Anthony Doerr is trying to have us see what both we and she cannot.
While the prose itself is quite good and I liked hearing about Marie-Laure, I also felt like there was too much in the book. There is a subplot that seems wholly unnecessary to me and it really does not come into fruition. I also feel like there should have been more of a connection with Werner and Marie-Laure. As it stands, I would simply separate their stories into different books. This way, you can get both stories and switch back and forth in time without making either one seem too complicated. Having both perspectives and the shifts in time puts an unnecessary strain on the story and reader.
Honestly, the part that intrigued me the most was Marie-Laure’s story. I would have loved learning even more about her and how she goes about life as a blind girl in the middle of a devastating war. I was not as hooked by Werner’s side of the story, though I think as a separate book, his side could be just as gripping as Marie Laure’s.
Despite the criticisms I have made about All The Light We Cannot See, it is still a decent read and as such, I definitely recommend giving it a shot. If you do read it, I would love to hear what you think about it. If you have already read it, do you agree with my suggestion of splitting the stories? Did you find it a little hard to follow? Did anything else strike you? I am looking forward to hearing from you in the comments!
Title: All The Light We Cannot See
Author: Anthony Doerr