Review: All The Light We Cannot See (no spoilers)

06 February 2018

Get ready, because I'm about to make a very bold statement.
 I have a new favorite book. This novel has truly blown me away. I literally LOL'd in my car listening to the audiobook, cried all over the pages as I read it before bed and just absorbed every bit of it in absolute awe. Every line written by the author, Anthony Doerr, is so melodically enchanting that he was somehow able to make war torn France sound like it still had some sparkle to it. 

To rewind, the book bounces between 1940 and 1944 every so chapters and mainly follows the life of a blind French girl named Marie Laure and the life of a German boy named Werner (Although there are some other big characters throughout the book). It's fascinating to read about how two people on complete opposite sides of the war could actually have so much in common. When the war breaks out, Marie Laure is taken away from Paris, the museum her father works in, and everything known as "home" to her and she is placed on the sea of France where she must start anew. Likewise, Werner is a poor orphan destined to work in the mines the remainder of his life, until his intellect and the impending war get him a job with the Nazis working with radio and electronic repair. Both children (and I say children although they are about 16) have to leave behind everything they know and begin again because of World War Two. You see throughout the novel how their paths intersect and the toll the war takes on the both of them.

I don't want to include any spoilers in my reviews because I merely want them to act as an introduction you may decide to read or reject, but I will touch on one of the more powerful moments in the novel.

While at training school to become a Nazi solider, Werner is dragged out of his bunk, along with the other students, in the middle of the freezing winter to observe a prisoner. The book does not specify if the man is a Jewish person, and is only described by Werner as looking "Russian or Polish," but one can quickly infer the prisoner has escaped a concentration camp. Each student lines up and proceeds to take a bucket of water and dump it on the prisoner until he is soon frozen to death. It is such a powerful scene because Werner knows it is incredibly wrong and that he shouldn't do it, but he does it anyway.

When his turn arrives, Werner throws the water like all the others and the splash hits the prisoner in the chest and a perfunctory cheer rises. He joins the cadets waiting to be released. Wet boots, wet cuffs; his hands have become so numb, they do not seem his own.

That last line gives me absolute chills! The nerd in me is overwhelmed by the metaphor between how Werner has lost feeling in his hands and also lost feeling in his soul. But, I will not bore you with a literary review and just conclude that as writer myself, I was amazed at the way the author was able to weave all the different story lines together and make them cohesive. 

One of my favorite lines from the book, which is often repeated is, “Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever."

It of course relates perfectly not only to Marie Laure on a literal level because she is blind, but to how Werner is so quick to turn a blind eye to the monstrosities he commits with the Nazis. The book is brilliant and I proudly give it 5 out of 5 books.