Hey book lovers,
All the Light We Cannot See was an extraordinary experience, unlocking levels of emotion I never knew I could possess. Anthony Doerr’s Pulitzer Prize is well earned. Let’s talk about it.
2015 Reading Challenge: A Book That Made You Cry; A Pulitzer Prize-winning Book
WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE
From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the beautiful, stunningly ambitious instant New York Times bestseller 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 near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.
In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.
All The Light We Cannot See captivated me from start to finish. Not a difficult task since I love historical novels. It was an even more intriguing read because it was my first World War II novel barring fantastical themes (The Leviathan trilogy by Scott Westerfeld) with insight on a German’s experience of the war. The history books I read weren’t exactly lauding the Axes.
Anthony Doerr’s novel opened my eyes to what a German boy, with no other prospects but his ingenuity in mechanics, strove to desperately become during Hitler’s Germany. Werner’s journey as an orphan to a member of Hitler’s Youth is propelled by a thirst for ambition. But even the prettiest roses have thorns and soon his motivations for joining the German army are ambiguous.
We all know that Hitler brainwashed the German army and hoodwinked the rest of Germany into thinking he was their midget messiah but I personally took this level of persuasion with a grain of salt. I am a woman who strongly and stubbornly holds on to her beliefs. If any one else wants to believe in other things, that’s their life. Not mine. Hence, I could never relate.
But Doerr effortlessly creates a tale which evokes sympathy and understanding of Werner’s journey and its tragic outcome. It’s quite sobering. At the end of the novel, I stared out in space, silently wondering if the German boys from Hitler’s Youth were ever remembered for their naive sacrifices to Hilter’s dark and twisted cause.
Doerr also provided a flip side to Werner’s story with Marie-Laure, a blind French girl who lives with her father in Paris. Her story is not only of brave anti-war efforts, despite almost unbearable hardships, but also includes a mystical entity which ultimately binds the two protagonists and leads to a sacrifice only those in war sadly have to make.
All the Light We Cannot See is an emotional tailspin. An anti-climatic ending for this review, I know. But for a complex and layered novel, I can only describe it as such. I recommend future readers to dive in with the awareness that this novel will alienate them from what is known of the war in the history books and enlighten them to its true cruelty.