All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Historical Fiction, 531 pages, published in 2014

Synopsis: Marie-Laure, a blind girl, is living in Paris with her father when the Nazis invade and they are forced to flee and live with her great uncle in the port city of Saint-Malo. Werner is an orphan living in Germany, desperate to learn about technology in order to make a better life for him and his sister.

Spoiler Free Review:

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I recently read Next Year in Havana and was less than impressed, so I wanted to take a break from anymore historical fiction. I guess I broke that rule by reading this book, and unfortunately my feelings for the genre are the same as they were before. I’d heard from multiple people that this book was amazing, and the Goodreads ratings agree, so I was expecting a lot.

I spent a lot of this book confused or waiting. There are some forward and backward time jumps, which really confused me in the beginning. I have a really hard time keeping track of how much time is passing in books, so I had no idea how old the characters were because this takes place over a few years.

The book was pitched as being about what happens after Marie-Laure and Werner meet, so I was waiting for that to happen for a really long time. I made a note that I had gotten to page 360 (almost 70% into the book) and these characters still had not met yet.

Because it felt like the whole book was building to when the characters met, it all just felt like an unnecessarily long backstory that I didn’t particularly care about. I enjoyed Marie-Laure’s story more simply because I found it hard to relate to Werner.

Without saying too much, I think any notion of romance in this book was completely ridiculous.

By the time I got to the end, I just didn’t really know what I was supposed to get out of it. I would say it was a realistic ending, in terms of actual historical events, but I just didn’t feel fulfilled by the ending. I kind of just sat there like when I was done thinking, “So what?“.

The two major positives for me were that, despite not loving the ending, I had a good time reading the rest of the book and the prose was absolutely beautiful. There is a quote on one of the last pages of the book that I won’t include because it is long and full of spoilers, but it brought me to tears.

The book did bring up some interesting ideas about motivations and doing what is right, no matter the cost. I think a lot of World War II novels can do this well because it is easy to say that you would never do the things people back then did, but you never know until you are in that situation.

Overall I enjoyed my time reading this book due to the prose, but it is not one I would ever read again or think about very often.

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