ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE by Anthony Doerr

Welcome to 2014! Yes, I finally read All The Light We Cannot See.

What more can I say about this book that hasn’t already been said?

all-the-light-we-cannot-see-9781476746586_hrIf you’re inexplicably unfamiliar with this Pulitzer Prize winning novel, it’s the story of two young adults – Marie-Laure LeBlanc, a blind French girl who escapes Paris with her father at the start of the Nazi occupation, and Werner Pfenning, an orphan boy who earns admission to an elite German military academy before joining the Nazis as a radio technology specialist. All The Light We Cannot See traces Marie-Laure’s and Werner’s experiences both leading up to and during the war through short chapters that rotate among several characters and subplots.

All The Light We Cannot See has been incredibly well-reviewed and acclaimed, so I was a little leery going in. Would it live up to the hype? Yes, there is a lot to like here. Doerr is a masterful storyteller, with the main plots teasing slowly to keep the reader quite involved. I found this book almost unbearably suspenseful at times, as I waited to learn the fates of these characters. The story is of course quite sad and very difficult at times, with Nazi horrors and violence in abundance. But there is goodness in these main characters, and by the time their lives intersect as the Allies bomb St. Malo, you’ve grown to care deeply about both of them.

You have to suspend your cynicism when you read All The Light We Cannot See. Some of it is just a bit too coincidental, and the story about the jewel that protects its custodian while destroying those close to him is more of a fable than a plot. Instead, enjoy the luminous prose and let yourself get caught up in the heart-pounding suspense and the triumph of humanity.

I listened to All The Light We Cannot See on audio, which was beautifully narrated by Zach Appelman. It’s a long book, so you’ll get to know Appelman’s voice. No complaints – perfect accents, good job with both male and female characters, calm delivery despite some horrific and scary moments. I highly recommend the audio.

 

5 Comments

  • August 8, 2016 - 7:22 am | Permalink

    Your opening – Welcome to 2014 – LOLOL

  • techeditor
    August 8, 2016 - 1:07 pm | Permalink

    I read this, too, because ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE won a Pulitzer Prize and because this book has so many great reviews, I think that I expected too much, as you feared you might. Here is why I was disappointed.

    First understand, I don’t think this book is bad, only overrated. It is not a five-star book, which a Pulitzer-Prize-winning book should be.

    More than 400 pages of this book are snippets of information about the lives of a blind French girl and German boy-electronics-wiz, given in alternating chapters, in alternating years. This all seems to be building up to something. As a result, I wondered for 400 pages how their lives will interact and what is the significance of a diamond. That’s a big buildup. Then they finally come together for, what, a day? That’s it. Then we’re back to the snippets. Then the snippets skip decades. And that’s it.

    The second disappointment was all the skippable paragraphs. Many authors have this problem. They seem to be too in love with their writing. I compare it to a woman who is so in love with her beauty she wastes hours gazing at herself in the mirror.

    • gayle
      August 8, 2016 - 9:59 pm | Permalink

      Your points are well taken. I didn’t mind the skippable stuff – probably because I listened on audio so it was hard to know what was extraneous. As for the diamond, it was an interesting theme throughout (the person with the diamond is safe but those around her are not) but not consistent with the realism of the novel.

  • Dana
    August 11, 2016 - 10:04 pm | Permalink

    Thank you. On your recommendation, I purchased the audio book. I look forward to listening.

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