{Review} ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE by Anthony Doerr


O P E N I N G   L I N E:

    AT DUSK THEY POUR FROM the sky. They blow across the ramparts, turn cartwheels over rooftops, flutter into the ravines between houses. Entire streets swirl with them, flashing white against the cobbles. Urgent message to the inhabitants of this town, they say. Depart immediately to open country. 
    The tide climbs. The moon hangs small and yellow and gibbous. On the rooftops of beachfront hotels to the east, and in the gardens behind them, a half-dozen American artillery units drop incendiary rounds into the mouths of mortars.

(pg. 7, US e-book edition)

You may or may not have heard of ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE by Anthony Doerr. It was 2014's sleeper hit, coming out in May, and exploding in popularity during the holiday season. Even now, it is #1 on the Best Seller's List...and deservedly so. Not every book that hits the list can be considered "good" fiction, so when something truly remarkable comes along, it is a triumphant moment. It took Doerr ten years to write his masterpiece, and it was time well spent. The book is a National Book Award finalist. It won the Goodreads Choice Award in its category. The New York Times Book Review listed it as one of the year's top ten books.

To put it simply, ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE is historical fiction at its best. (Not my usual genre, I know! So worth it, though!) The novel is comprised into "before" and the "present."
 There are two main characters whose lives we are privvy to during WWII.:
MARIE-LAURE is blind and living in Paris with her father. Her father is the principal locksmith for the National Museum of Natural History. When the two are forced to evacuate Paris, her father is granted custody of a diamond that may or my not be an expensive forgery of a priceless cursed jewel. 
WERNER is an orphan with a short future. His father died in the mines, and he already knows he'll be forced down the same career path when he turns fifteen; he is also sentenced to die young in the mines. His true love, however, revolves around forbidden subjects math and science. When he is only eight, he finds--and restores--a broken radio. As he grows older, he becomes known in his district for his ability to fix radios. When a German lance corporal needs a radio fixed and Werner does what no adult could, he writes him a recommendation letter so he can take entrance exams to get into the National Political Institutes of Education. Werner is thrilled to escape the sentence of working in the mines and dying young like his father, of being able to learn in the open and tinker with radios. But what will getting into the premier school for Hitler's youth take away from him? 
 ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE was impossible to put down. The writing was gorgeous and nuanced. Seeing the world through blind eyes was stunning, and I adored the chapters from Marie-Laure's perspective. Her father was amazing, such a good, caring man. His inventions to help his daughter were spectacular. My heart ached for her hardships. It also ached for Werner. All he wants is to learn, and he gets sucked up into a war that steals so much from him. The mystery of the cursed jewel also made a compelling addition to the story that kept me reading. No matter what segment or time period I was in the middle of reading, I always wanted to get back to the other time, the other things happening. I wanted to know everything. I wanted to know outcomes. I wanted to see how and if Marie-Laure's path may or may not cross into Werner's.
I can't even tell you what I loved so much about this novel. It's outside of my typical wheelhouse. It's so well-written and the characters are so compelling. I had borrowed this, and became so immersed in the world that I had to buy my own copy. I went fit an ebook copy because there was so much I wanted to highlight and remember. I had so many feels as I made my way through this, and all I wanted to do was read, so it sucked when I had to stop reading and work. All of the praise heaped upon this novel is earned; this is a stunning novel that will have a lasting impact on readers for years to come.


Content Ratings: highlight between ( ) for details

Romance: --
Language: PG13 ( cursing )
Violence: PG15 ( fighting; death )
Other:  ( mentions of rape )

C O V E R   D E S I G N:

Simple and understated. This wouldn't necessarily jump out at me on the shelf, but it has the same quiet atmosphere as its interior. 

I really like the dark blues and the atmosphere of the city. 

O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Author: Anthony Doerr
Release Date: May 6, 2014
Publisher: Scribner / Simon and Schuster
Received: Purchased

Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris within walking distance of the Museum of Natural History where he works as the master of the locks (there are thousands of locks in the museum). When she is six, she goes blind, and her father builds her a model of their neighborhood, every house, every manhole, so she can memorize it with her fingers and navigate the real streets with her feet and cane. When the Germans occupy Paris, father and daughter flee to Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast, where Marie-Laure's agoraphobic great uncle lives in a tall, narrow house by the sea wall. 

In another world in Germany, an orphan boy, Werner, grows up with his younger sister, Jutta, both enchanted by a crude radio Werner finds. He becomes a master at building and fixing radios, a talent that wins him a place at an elite and brutal military academy and, ultimately, makes him a highly specialized tracker of the Resistance. Werner travels through the heart of Hitler Youth to the far-flung outskirts of Russia, and finally into Saint-Malo, where his path converges with Marie-Laure. 

Doerr's gorgeous combination of soaring imagination with observation is electric. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another. Ten years in the writing, ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE is his most ambitious and dazzling work.