All the Light We Cannot See

Author: Anthony Doerr
Publisher: Scribner

Goodreads Summary: 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.

My Thoughts: I'm late to the game on this book but that's not for lack of attempting. I was going to say trying but honestly I've picked this one up multiple time, read a few pages, & then left it alone for months. This is now the second book club I've been in that has picked it so I finally pushed myself to just read the darn thing!

The book is beautifully written and while it took me a bit to get into it, I did enjoy it. However it didn't quite click for me but I think I was expecting it to be life changing the way people talk about it. Our book club had a really thoughtful discussion on it, which did make me realize that my reaction to the book was more positive & that my issues really were about how much it was hyped up.

A huge part of why we enjoyed the book is how real we felt a lot of situations were. So many WWII books try to tell dramatic stories that are either really terrible or really heroic. This book seemed quieter, with the result being characters who felt more true. Werner especially was an example of how many Germans probably were during the war: not fully into Nazism but also not questioning much. He makes decisions to stand back & keep himself safe even when there are situations before him that disturb him. Marie-Laure's story may be less conventional but her more quiet acts of resistance also felt a bit more grounded in reality.

My least favorite part of the book (as well as the book club's) was the storyline of Sergeant von Rumpel. He spends the book in search of the mysterious blue diamond & it quickly turns into an obsession that just feels false. Unlike the other characters he feels like a book character, which meant his chapters took me a bit out of the story. I just didn't really get him & felt his whole journey leaned more towards ridiculous versus realistic.

So while I can't say this was the best book I've ever read I did enjoy it. It did take me awhile to get invested in the story & I'm not sure I would've stuck with it without the book club but I am very glad I did.

For those of you who have read it what did you think? I really want to know as I think I'm in the minority here!




1 comment

  1. I love what you said about the characters feeling "quieter" and less dramatic so it made them more realistic. I loved that about the book as well. The writing was exquisite but it wasn't show-offy. His descriptions made me feel like I was actually there. I agree that Van Rumpel's quest seemed insignificant amidst the backdrop of everything else going on and his character was absolutely unredeemable so I just kept hoping he'd step on something and break a leg and need to return to Germany


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