All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr (2014)
- Short-listed for Tournament of Books 2015, and pitted against Wittgenstein Jr in the brackets – sadly for Wittgenstein Jr, as All the Light will surely dominate.
- Winner of the Goodreads Choice Awards 2014 in the Historical Fiction category.
- National Book Award Nominee for Fiction in 2014.
Short and sweet, this is a historical fiction novel about a young, blind French girl and a male Nazi youth, and their experiences before, during, and after WWII. Click book cover above to be taken to the Goodreads synopsis.
This was a beautifully written book, with simple, yet elegant prose that was easy to read. Doerr has excellent skill in creating a palpable atmosphere, without it being too lengthily described or over the top obvious that he’s trying to be “atmospheric” – if that makes any sense. (It does in my mind, but that doesn’t always meaning anything…).
The chapters were extremely short – at the longest a few pages, and at the shortest a few paragraphs – told in alternating perspectives. Additionally, the book was broken into sections which moved forward and backward in time. I both loved and hated the short chapters. I liked them because it was super convenient I was able to pick it up, quick read a few chapters, and before I knew it 30 pages had gone by. Hated might be too strong of a word, but I disliked the short chapters because it felt a little choppy as I was reading at times, both with the jumping around from different perspectives, as well as jumping around in time.
Despite this book being easy to read, I feel like it took me awhile to get through. I also felt like it sagged in the middle quite a bit, and could have done with a stronger editing hand in that area. Otherwise the pacing was decent enough. It probably didn’t help that I was reading Redeployment at the same time, so that’s a lot of war talk, and I could have done with something a litter fluffier to lighten things up a bit. My bad.
I really liked that this didn’t feel like every other WWII historical fiction novel I’ve already read a million times before, in that it wasn’t some overarching story about the war, but more like a day in the life of each of these characters.
Doerr really kept Marie-Laure’s and Werner’s stories separate for QUITE awhile, so much so that I wondered if there was ever going to be an overlap. And then… it happened so subtly, and perfectly. I REALLY loved the very moment when the story lines came together. Excellent.
There were several truly heartbreaking moments in this book, which left a lasting impression. I probably could have done without the cursed diamond story line… I mean, why? All in all, a great read, but maybe a little over-hyped, as my expectations were met, but not exceeded.
Rating: [4/5 stars]
Looking for more…
- Leah’s review @ Books Speak Volumes
- April’s review @ The Steadfast Reader
- Marisa’s review @ The Daily Dosage
- Sam’s video @ Thoughts on Tomes
- The New York Times discusses why this book shouldn’t necessarily be so popular, and yet it is. I read this before I read the book, and it sparked my interest even more.
Have you guys read this? If so, what did you think? Do you think it’s over-hyped or hyped-for-a-good-reason?
| All the Light We Cannot See | Scribner | 2014 | hardcover | purchased |