All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr — 4.5 / 5.0
This was another one of those books in which I got to the final page and didn’t even know how to move forward with my life. It left me in emotional ruins…which obviously makes for a high rating in my book!
For a while, though, I didn’t think that would happen. If I’m completely honest, I was ready to give up on this book about halfway through. I spent an eternity getting through it, but it was completely worth it. Doerr’s fantastic story and storytelling make it completely worthy of the Pulitzer Prize it has received.
A blind girl and her father flee from Paris and the threat of war to the coastal town of Saint-Malo, carrying secrets and fears. An orphaned German boy who has turned his fascination with science and radios into noticeable talent struggles with the seemingly unalterable path set before him, from the Hitler Youth academy all the way to Saint-Malo.
The weaving and unraveling of this story astonished me. Every chapter painted a magnificent picture of each character’s decisions, ambitions, and growth. I think I am a little drawn to World War II books, probably because it is such a harrowing time in our history, but this is definitely one of my favorites of that specific genre.
There were some questions left unanswered, and some tragedies that left me reeling. This is, however, a story about World War II, and to leave those questions and tears out of the picture would not genuinely capture those moments in history. As gut-wrenching as this story was at times, I could not picture its telling any other way.
Doerr is a magician. Throughout the whole book I kept trying to figure out what made his writing so impressive, and I still don’t think I’ve fully landed on it. The descriptions are so simple (yet also not at all), and each word and phrase rings strong and true, and clears away any doubt over what you are to feel in this exact moment. There’s science and fact intermingled with magic and wonder. I will never be aware of my senses or surroundings in quite the same way again.
The only thing that was (at times) this book’s downfall was its pacing. Most chapters only covered four pages or so. While this can be convenient if you only have a few minutes of reading time to spare, it kept me from getting a good rhythm going, as it was too easy in my busy day to stop and move on to some other task. This was the main reason it took me so long to finish. Once I finally carved out an evening to finish it all, however, the pacing wasn’t a problem. The montage-like chapters do lend themselves to the writing and overall feel to the book, so it didn’t warrant a full point off the rating.
Side note: I had Claire de Lune on repeat for the last hundred pages of the novel on that evening, and it was the perfect accompaniment for the whole thing. (This might make more sense if you have reached that point in the novel…regardless, test me and see if I’m wrong!)
If you are still in the seeming minority that hasn’t read this book yet, I hope this convinced you to finally pick it up. Like, right now. Go ahead. I’ll wait right here.