It’s the oddest thing, but sometimes I ‘save’ an unread book. Maybe it’s as simple as knowing that I have a trip coming up, or maybe it’s more complicated and I know that there will be a point when I just need to really lose myself in a book. All The Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr, was one such book for me. I had great expectations of this book and it in no way disappointed.
All The Light We Cannot See is the most beautiful book in concept and execution. It tells two concurrent stories, each set during World War 2 and which ultimately and naturally dovetail. Marie-Laure is the daughter of a museum locksmith, who loses her sight before the war begins. Forced to leave Paris, possibly in possession of a valuable diamond, her father takes her to stay with her Uncle Etienne in Saint Malo, where she will spend the rest of the war.
Werner, Marie Laure’s contemporary, grows up with his sister, Jutta, in a German orphanage. The future looks bleak for Werner, with the only certainty being a future in the coal mines, that is until he realizes his brilliance with radio equipment. Swept up by Hitler Youth and placed in a private school, Werner’s ability begins to thrive.
Doerr alternates between the two stories, chapter by chapter, pulling you into each story. Your love is shared equally between each child as Doerr plays no favorites. We see Werner only as a product of his time and circumstance, a good child and later man, who had no choice but to follow the German regime. Marie Laure, we grow with and love, feeling the need to protect as if she were our own.
This book is both a heart stopper and a heart breaker, beautiful and bleak, hopeful and desperate all in equal measure. You must read it.