Category: A Book Set In Europe
All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr (530 pages)
My Rating: ★★★★★
Favorite Line: Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.
Set in France and Germany during World War II and the few years leading up to it, this story tells the story of two children, an orphan boy in Hitler Youth, and a blind Parisian girl who flees from occupied France to the coast with her father.
I read this book shortly after reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, which had quickly become my favorite WWII based fiction, but this book challenged that ranking from page one.
Full of breathtaking passages and deep emotional scenes, All the Light we Cannot See hooks you to the two main characters, forcing you to embrace their story as if it were your own.
You can’t help but hurt for Werner, the Germany boy, as he goes through Hitler Youth. You watch his mind slowly change from the young innocent boy who used to listen to French broadcasts with his sister from the attic of their orphanage, to a young soldier locating enemy spies and ignoring any opposition he had in his mind. Even while he abandons his beliefs for those of his commanders, you never fully abandon your belief in him, because after all, He was just a boy. They all were. Even the largest of them.
Marie-Laure, a blind French girl, had to flee Paris with her father to the coastal town of Saint-Malo to stay with her wacky, secluded uncle. This bold girl, encouraged by her spirited father’s puzzles and her braille books, especially Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, finds joy and courage everyday and helping those around her find their own.
Marie-Laure, despite her blindness, and the disappearance of her father, remains the true light of this book. Her determination never ceases and her cleverness only grows as the war goes on.
When I lost my sight, Werner, people said I was brave. When my father left, people said I was brave. But it is not bravery; I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don’t you do the same?
The book moves toward the inevitable meeting of our two protagonists in a beautifully written narrative with fun (yes, fun, even in a book about WWII) subplots, but yet in many places it will break your heart.
Anthony Doerr won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, along with several other awards for All the Light We Cannot See. Some other works by Doerr include: The Shell Collector (2001), Memory Wall (2010), About Grace (2004), and The Snake Handler (2011).