Technically, I finished All The Light We Cannot See a few days ago, but I haven’t had enough time to formulate a review. There are a few “spoilers” below, but nothing that will ruin this book for you.
Doerr created an amazing story with complex complex characters who provide a beautiful insight into the different sides of WWII. You have Werner, a young German orphan who ends up in the military, and Marie-Laure, a blind French girl with a love of learning in occupied France. As you can imagine, their different life experiences give them differing opinions on the war and the world. But even with these differences, they are connected in many, indicate ways. I loved seeing how with each turn of each page.
I also love the usage of time by Doerr. He begins in 1944, then jumps back in time before France’s occupation, then jumps back to 1944, then back to Werner is Hitler’s school, then back to 1944, then into the future. He does this repeatedly and I never got lost or confused. His characters mature as the years pass, but they revert to their childlike states when he goes back in time and then age appropriately when he jumps all he way to 1974. I usually get discouraged with this style, but it was so seamless that it compliments and advanced the story.
Another amazing thing Doerr does is connect each and every character. Think about that trend in romantic comedy movies from a few years back and throw it out the window. A perfect example is Werner hearing a radio broadcast about science as a child from a faraway, mysterious land. He eventually meets Marie-Laure, the granddaughter of the broadcaster, as he is in France during the Nazi occupation. Or Jutta, Werner’s sister, meeting Volkheimer, who met Werner in school and then served with him. They had never met, and never would have met if it wasn’t for Werner.
I mentioned I love reading about WWII and Doerr brought up something I had never thought about before. Long after the war, Jutta still feels guilty for being a German and worries about what people see when they look at her. She was a victim of the war machine– forced to work in the factories to supply the German armies, raped by the Russians after they invaded her city after the Nazis fell–but history would likely portray her as a monster. I never imagined how she, as a survivor, would feel or how she would view herself.
This book is also a breath of fresh air when it comes to the topic of love. There is no romance in this story. There is only the love between a father and daughter, a brother and sister, an uncle and niece, and friends. At some point, someone says they believe Werner fell in love with Marie-Laure when he met her, but I don’t believe he did. I believe he saw a young woman determined to stay alive during the worst of times and saw his future before him in the same manner. They were not star crossed lovers, nor did they fall in love at first sight. It was so different reading a story without a prominent love story, but I loved every minute of it.
Although this book was over 500 pages, it didn’t feel terribly long. By the end, I wanted to know what would happen. When it was over, I didn’t feel any massive hole in my life, but I have been thinking about it a little differently each day. Doerr created a masterpiece and absolutely deserved the Pulitzer Prize for this book. I honestly can only use the word “beautiful” to describe this book. If you haven’t read it, I would immediately put it to the top of your list, or you need to make sure you read it in your life time.