Monday, 4 July 2016

Review: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Title: All the Light We Cannot See
Author: Anthony Doerr
Publisher: Fourth Estate
Pages: 531
Genres: Historical Fiction

All the Light We Cannot See
Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.
Yet another historical fiction focusing on WW2. What is there to say really? This is a pretty standard WW2 novel, it was fine and good but there was nothing particularly original or different about it. The book is split between two main characters, Marie-Laure LeBlanc and Werner Pfennig; two teenagers from different sides of the war, their different childhoods are examined as well as their respective roles during the war with plenty of the expected struggle and violence. Nothing really too special. The writing was very descriptive and the chapters are teeny tiny which I actually really liked as it pushed me through the book a lot faster.

Marie-Laure was intriguing because she was blind and it was really interesting to see how she made sense of her world and how she coped with the hardship of living in occupied France. She was my favourite character and I really wanted more of her and her family's story. Werner on the other hand was less interesting to me and I didn't really feel that he had much of a personality, he was just the typical unfortunate boy drafted into the Hitler youth and then later the German army. The plot was pretty obvious, there wasn't any surprises in it for me.

The ending was just a bit bizarre, the two story lines converge but nothing really happened. People died, people survived and not everyone got a happy ending. Pretty standard, like I said. I didn't feel particularly emotionally affected and I felt quite distant from the characters. The historical fiction genre is over saturated with this kind of book so All the Light We Cannot See really needed something extra to lift it above the rest but sadly it just did not. To be honest I think there are plenty of other books set during WW2 that are more compelling, like Atonement for example.

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