Monday, October 24, 2016

Review: All the Light We Cannot See

Book: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Challenge Prompt: Read a book from the library
Pages: 529

Here it is: the first book review for the 26 Books Challenge!  Having heard great things about this book, I decided to pick it up from the library and give it a try.

All the Light We Cannot See tells two concurrent (and eventually, intertwining) stories - the first about Marie-Laure LeBlanc, a blind French girl who flees with her father from Paris to the seaside village of Saint-Malo; the second about Werner Pfennig, a German orphan who is a prodigy with radios and technology.  As World War II winds down, Marie-Laure and Werner's stories get closer and closer until they finally intersect.

Add to that a German sergeant major searching for a legendary gemstone, a scale model of Saint-Malo, and the French Resistance, and you have All the Light We Cannot See, a compelling and thought-provoking tale.

Doerr's writing style is unique, and I personally had trouble getting into it.  I particularly had some trouble with the fact that the timeline jumps back and forth - not trouble tracking with the story's timeline, but it made the novel seem disjointed to me.  I don't say this as a knock on Doerr, just an observation.  On a positive note, I found many of the characters extremely compelling, particularly the highly intelligent and intuitive Marie-Laure.  Werner's unchallenged acceptance of Nazi propaganda had the dual effects of making me think about the nature of good and evil versus what society says is good or evil and making him a rather unsympathetic character until the end (in my eyes, at least).

But maybe that was Doerr's point - that many people, either during World War II or today, blindly follow what society tells them until they "see the light", so to speak.  Though Marie-Laure is blind, she sees and observes more than most other characters, particularly Werner.  While Marie-Laure is physically blind, Werner is socially blind.  That's an inelegant way of phrasing it, but I hope you know what I mean.

Final Recommendation: Read it if you were already interested in it.  If long (500+ pages), intellectual novels aren't your thing, you might want to skip this one.  I enjoyed it, but am not necessarily sure I would read it again.

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