All The Light we cannot see was recommended to me as my next read on my Instagram and Twitter. It was between this and The Song of Achilles. It’s a story about two young people during the war and the struggles they face trying to survive under their own unique circumstances. And it just didn’t resonate with me.
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All The Light We Cannot See focuses on Marie-Laure and Werner Pfennig, two children from two different countries whose young lives aren’t easy. Marie-Laure is blind and when the Nazis come is forced out of Paris with her father and Werner has grown up in an orphanage with just his young sister and a radio to keep him going.
Plot – 3/5
All The Light We Cannot See focuses on Marie-Laure and Werner Pfennig. Marie-Laure lives in Paris which becomes occupied by the Nazis causing her and her father to flee to Saint-Malo where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great uncle lives. Marie-Laure and her father carry a very rare and potentially dangerous diamond from her father’s museum he worked at. Werner, an orphan, grows up with his younger sister listening to a radio where he learns the ins and outs of how they work. He’s then enlisted by the Nazis to try and use his talents to find the resistance.
The story itself is OK. There are moments that do make you feel for the characters and both of their journeys are relatively interesting. However, I just didn’t feel that engaged with either of their storylines. There was quite a bit of jumping around in time and some incredibly short chapters that broke up the story for me too much. With only a page or two to get into the story of each character each time, it felt very fractured and not immersive at all.
I know this story has been praised for showing the good in humans and feeling uplifting, however, I just couldn’t get myself into the story as I’d hoped. It’s also worth mentioning how passive the writing style is. There’s no doubt Anthony Doerr can write well, but just, for me anyway, not in a particularly engaging way. The majority of the story is told via the narrator rather than via speech or physical actions – making it once again very hard to visualise it in my head.
Characters – 3/5
When a book is about two young adults and the Goodreads reads Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.” you think you’re going to be obsessed with these characters and love their innocent and pure souls and I just didn’t. I have to refer back to the way in which Anthony Doerr writes the novel. I’m not by any means saying he’s written it poorly – it’s very well written, but for me, he’s just not written it in a way that engages me or makes me fall in love with these two characters.
Werner isn’t particularly loveable and Marie-Laure is sweet and innocent and being blind does add another layer to her character but just isn’t all that engaging either. Arguably my favourite character was Reinhold von Rumpel, a character throughout the book who is seen as the villain as he’s trying to get the diamond from Marie-Laure. However, his clear illness and the struggles this poses both for performing his job but also with how the Nazis treated the weak, adds a very interesting level to his role in the novel.
All The Light We Cannot See summary – 3/5
I feel like I should have liked All The Light We Cannot See more – I’ve seen universally good things about this before I had read it. However, after putting up a post on my Instagram letting people know that I just wasn’t getting on with it, I can see I’m not the only one who struggled with the writing style and the unengaging way this was written.
I will definitely pick this book up again in the future and see if my views on it change. However, for now, it just didn’t resonate with me or leave me with a very positive impression.
- Buy All The Light We Cannot See on Kindle from Amazon.
- Buy All The Light We Cannot See in paperback from Amazon.
2 thoughts on “Book Review: All The Light We Cannot See”
For years I have seen glowing reviews.
Thought I had missed something.
Thanks for the average recommendation as it confirms my dissatisfaction with this book.
When I started reading this book I was unsure if I would enjoy the lyrical and poetic writing. I’m not usually a literary fiction kind of guy, I like neat, simple and straight to the point writing.
This book changed my mind.
The prose sucked me into 1930s Germany and France with efficiency and did not make me want to leave. I kid you not when I say the entire book felt like a psychedelic trip. It’s not really abou the plot or the characters or the stuff you normally rate books on. It’s about enabling time travel.
As writers we are often encouraged not to be overly descriptive, to show not tell, to get to the point. Anthony gives all of that the finger with aplomb and style. The best writers, I think, do not need to say anything specific to be immensely readable.
This book was a page turner for me. I do not feel there was a single word that was superfluous.