Book Review: All The Light We Cannot See


All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, although being a dreadfully annoying title to type out, was a beautifully executed, well written and extremely emotional book. It’s around 530 pages depending on your novel, with extremely short chapters and a fragmented postmodern structure where there is constant switching of time zones.

One Sentence Synopsis: 

There are three stories within the novel which explore different experiences during WW2 as well as the curse around a stone called the “Sea of Flames”  which is told to bring immortality to those who hold it, however all those close to him will die.

There were parts of this novel that made me want to print its words out on a tea towel. Phrases and descriptions of senses created in different ways were the big stand out in Anthony’s text. His words made me understand just a bit more about the life of a blind girl, or the life of expectations, or the life of greed, or the life of duty, or the life of family, the life of pure unconditional love. It explored the corruption of childhood and innocence and the relationships and opportunities that were severed all due to the harsh reality of war.

Now I have to admit this book gave me mixed feelings at first. As beautiful written as it was, some parts of this text made me feel stuck or were very lexically dense which made it extremely long and hard to read. The switching of time zones often confused me and the overwriting of the entire novel almost made it become a beautiful but tiresome read. You really have to be in the mood to read this book. It was in fact mostly the LAST 150 pages that really pulled this book up to the calibre of its high esteemed reviews online.

Maybe I was reading it wrong, but before the last few sections or so, a feeling of dissatisfaction was always in my head, as the two main characters: Marie Laurie, a blind girl in Saint Malo and Werner Pfennig, a very bright young German boy, had two very seperate stories. It was shifting between their stories so often that I got so frustrated at the fact that I was 350 pages in and their stories were yet to converge. They hadn’t met, they hadn’t fallen in love, they hadn’t even heard of each other and being the romantic that I am, I WAS SO ANNOYED. The last 150 pages was where the book totally transformed into being extremely dynamic and suspenseful pulling in plot twists and connections at every chapter.

I have to also comment on the undeniable role and special place in my heart that the character Fredrick played within the book. Fredrick was the definitive personification of childhood innocence and of naivety which was undoubtably ruined and crushed because of the war. He was the reason I cried as I did in this novel and somehow his state of perpetual pain and disability affected me as reader far more than very major deaths. He and Werner were the ultimate sacrifices of war, acting as a symbol for all children who’s opportunities and lives were taken away by gunfire and death around them.

This theme of innocence taken away by war has been explored in hundreds and hundreds of historical fiction novels yet somehow this stands out through its intricate words and intertwining stories.

Hands down a 4/5, a definite must read this winter in the depths of your warm blankets!!!


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