*SPOILERS* Book Review: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

All the Light We Cannot See

By: Anthony Doerr

Published: May 6th, 2014 by Scribner

Pulitzer Prize Winner

ISBN: 9781501173219 (Paperback)

Genre: Historical Fiction

Rating: 4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

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Open your eyes, the Frenchman on the radio used to say, and see what you can with them before they close forever.

I know you’re all wondering why this isn’t a five-star read. Just read the rest of the review and you will figure out why.

You follow two main characters, Marie-Laure LeBlanc and Werner Pfennig.

Marie-Laure is a young blind girl who lives in Paris with her father, a “principal locksmith for the National Museum of Natural History.” Her and her father leave Paris and go to live with her uncle, Etienne LeBlanc, in Saint-Malo. She ends up joining in on the French resistance and broadcasts from her uncles radio in the attic. Later on in the novel she gets trapped in there because von Rumpel, a German officer, searches Etienne’s house for the Sea of Flames (I will explain this later…if I can).

Werner Pfennig is a little boy who lives with his sister Jutta and many other kids in an orphanage. He is interested in radios, and eventually is able to fix them. He is then asked to replace a radio for Siedler, a Nazi official, and successfully completes the task. He is then able to escape the mines at fifteen by being sent to an institute. At the institute Werner’s teacher, Dr. Hauptmann, lies about Werner’s age so he will be sent into the military. His task while in the military was to locate any anti-German radio broadcasts and destroy them. Werner and his team get trapped for days underground in the Hotel of Bees, and while being down there they hear Marie-Laure broadcasting over the radio. He hears her say that he (von Rumpel) is in the house and he is going to kill her. When they escape, Werner goes and saves her. Unfortunately, Werner does not end up surviving the whole book. I will not spoil how or when he dies because it will definitely catch you off guard.

Each chapter alternates between the two of them. The further you go into the book, the more it branches out to different characters. A majority of the book flip-flops between different years ranging from 1934-1944, and eventually it jumps to 1974 and then one more time into 2014.

Obviously there are more characters that I did not include in the summary. If you have read the book then you will know. If you haven’t read the book and have an interest then you shouldn’t be reading this review anyway.

Pros: 

  • This book is full of amazing characters. It doesn’t mean that they are all “good” characters, but they are very fleshed out. Doerr really wanted to make each and every one of them different, and it shows.
  • The conversations in this novel are intriguing. That is one thing I look for while I am reading. If two or more characters cannot hold an interesting conversation then I get bored and in return it drops my rating of the book. There were conversations that I could see real people having that were alive at that time period.
  • There are many great relationships in this novel. A lot of the characters are just trying to take care of one another during the difficult times. There is a lot of love between families and friends. A lot of sadness and tragedy (not as much as other books I’m sure). There was also some humor mixed in. It shed a little light on the story. Definitely an emotional ride.
  • I loved the writing style. The sentences were short and choppy, but they got the point across very well for the most part. Doerr knew how to describe events without boring the reader with the unnecessary details.

Cons: 

  • I didn’t understand the Sea of Flames. I just couldn’t grasp why that was part of the story in the first place. I don’t really want to look it up, because I just finished reading the book and I could probably stand to think about it a little more. I know that whoever has it will not die, but is also cursed in a way?? I’m not exactly sure. It was explained but not very clearly. If anyone is able to explain it to me that would be great.
  • The ending of the book wasn’t satisfying to me. It wasn’t sad by any means, and I didn’t want it to be. It was very abrupt and I felt like he was just trying to find a way to tie up all the loose ends. Endings are a crucial part of reading for me. If the ending isn’t satisfying then I end up dropping the rating a little bit. I get that it is probably an individual problem rather than something the author did. I just feel like the beginning and endings of books are important and should be thought out.

DISCLAIMER: This novel includes an instance of rape. There is death and war which may be a trigger for some people. I’m sure it’s obvious what would be involved but I like to warn people either way.

Overall, I do recommend this story. It may not change your life but I know it is worth the read. It is a little weird at times, but that’s easy to look past. I’m sure a lot of people will take something from the story. If you don’t end up liking it then that’s okay too. I’d love to know reasons why someone didn’t like it as much! Let me know down in the comments what you thought when you read this book.

I had many favorite quotes from this book and I would love to share them with you all!

  • “The sea does not belong to tyrants.” (this is actually a quote from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by  Jules Verne. Marie-Laure reads this story in the book).
  • “That a light you are powerless to stop will turn on you and usher a bullet to its mark.”
  • “But to raise one’s hopes is to risk their falling further.”
  • “Every rumor carries a seed of truth.”
  • So really, children, mathematically, all of light is invisible.”
  • “The universe if full of fuel.”
  • “All your life you wait, and then it finally comes, and are you ready?”
  • So how, children, does the brain, which lives without a spark of light, build for us a world full of light?”

If you enjoyed this review then give it a like and follow me for future book reviews. Be respectful and happy reading!

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5 comments

  1. I listened to this as an audiobook and MAN it was a BAD IDEA. I had basically no idea what time period it was and I kept getting the characters all confused. I think I thought Werner was two different people (one person when they said his first name and a second when they said his last). It was a mess. Should’ve tried it in print.

    Liked by 1 person

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