All The Light We Cannot See
July 29, 2014
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All The Light We Cannot See (B) by Anthony Doerr has left me with mixed feelings. The story of war torn France, a blind girl named Marie-Laure and a very young German boy named Werner was a bit over-much for my tastes.
Marie-Laure’s Dad is the locksmith at the Museum of Natural History. There he does more than introduce his daughter to things she cannot see; he allows her the opportunity to feed her intelligence by acquiring knowledge about her environment. Not stopping with what she can learn at the museum, he builds her a miniature replica of the city. By touch, she becomes familiar enough to be able to travel the streets by herself.
In Germany, a young orphan and his sister are learning many things too. Werner is obsessed with how things work, in particular, radios. His incredible ability to repair radios draws the attention of officers in Hitler’s army. His fascination with technology and his eagerness to learn everything he can blinds him to Hitler’s atrocities.
The museum safeguards the world’s most incredible diamond, The Sea of Flames, by entrusting it to the care of Marie-Laure’s father. This puts Marie directly in harms way.
As the (endless) war and story continue, the author embeds the message that life is not always about what you can see. Though Marie is the sightless character; they all suffer from blindness. While Doerr’s intentions were all good, for me, I believe the novel suffers for them. Time would have been better spent further developing some of the key characters. Jutta, Werner’s sister is wise beyond her years, yet her voice is only a whisper. There were far too many boring chapters depicting Werner’s success in battle. Perhaps a bit more development of his inner struggles would have made him a more believable hero.
If you enjoy historical fiction based on World War II and if you have time to pour through 500 plus pages, then give All The Light We Cannot See a try. If time doesn’t allow for such a long read, just wait, because since it reads like a movie I am sure one is on the way.