by Anthony Doerr
read by Zach Appelman
Publisher: Simon and Shcuester Audio
Rating 4 out of 5 stars
I don't often come away from a book just breathing in its beauty each time I put it down. I also have never managed to listen to a book that is this long--20 hours. It was well worth it as I was engaged and thinking about the two main characters when I wasn't listening for most of the story.
In All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr introduces us to two characters placed in very different experiences during World War II. Marie-Laure has been blind since she was a little girl and her father builds her a replica of their neighborhood in Paris so she can learn how to navigate the streets on her own. When she and her father flee Paris for their safety, he is entrusted with a stone -- one of four -- and they find their way to Saint-Malo where Marie-Laure's great uncle locks himself away in his grand home, unable to leave its confines for fear of the outside world. Werner is an orphan in Germany who has a talent for radios and mechanics and a curiosity for all the mysteries of the world. When the Nazis discover his talent and intelligence, he is entered into one of Hitler's boarding schools where he learns more than he had planned on learning, questioning what is right in the world, and thinking often of the younger sister he left back at the orphanage.
Life is terrifying for both Marie-Laure and Werner, but in very different ways and I loved how well the characters were built. Werner's life in school made me particularly anxious for him and the other boys attending as they were forced to turn on one another by picking out the weakest amongst them again and again. Marie-Laure felt somewhat safer in the fact that she was closed up in her great-uncle's house, but this was miserable for her. There was also the fear for her, as she is blind, that someone would take advantage of her.
Doerr built his characters beautifully, which is what kept me tuned in. There were parts that I found myself tuning out, mostly where the narrator discusses the stone, but there isn't really a character within those parts. The narrator becomes so removed that it was difficult for me to pay attention during those sections. Also, the end was drawn out. It was nice to find out what happened to our characters after the war, but I felt like it was unnecessary and would have preferred it to end when the war ended.
I recommend this to anyone who enjoys historical fiction because the setting is very real and World War II is really an important part of the story and not merely a background of events happening while the story takes place. If you are looking for a book that is not only well-written, but beautifully written, then read All the Light You Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. You'll be amazed by the imagery and how everything is built so well.
Image Source: Goodreads
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