Rambling about books

Book Review: All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr

Book cover from Goodreads

Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge. Goodreads

Spoiler alert

I don’t think labelling this as a book review is accurate; I think this is more like a book observation(?). I’ve read the book last year and I was completely captivated, it became one of the best book from 2015. I would go and recommend this book every time I saw a copy in a bookstore, this was also the book that came first anytime a person would asked for a book recommendations, regardless of what their favourite genre might be. The thing is, I first read the book on my nook, so when I saw it in the bookstore sometime in December of last year, I thought I should have the printed version for myself, if not for reading it again, then at least for the beautiful cover. And so, apparently this book was then chosen to be read instead of just gracing my sad excuse of a bookshelf; this is my observation from reading the book twice.

Oh my God! It is still as beautiful and tragic as I remembered it!

It was. I thought that having read this book last year, I wouldn’t feel the sharpening pain in my gut as Werner’s and Marie Laure’s story unravel. But, boy was I very wrong, I am definitely still hurt when Werner felt like giving up, when Marie Laure never did met with her Papa again, when Jutta had to endure what she did following the surrender of Germany. But the book is beautiful, in the way that it is written perfectly without having to gouge your emotion from tacky sappy writing.

Werner was still my favourite character from the book.

Marie Laure fought her own battle, much like Werner did. But, I just can’t shake what Werner had gone through and not feel a sense of awe at him. I still wished I could have pat Werner at the back and made sure that he did what he can and he did with his best effort.

Volkheimer still is a complex and mysterious character.

His silent, his comment to Werner about what Werner could be, his protective nature towards Werner, his trust for Werner; he is more than just a brute who blindly follows order. To be perfectly fair, all the other characters were as complex as Volkheimer is, but he was the most interesting one.

Werner never did survive the war.

The first time I read the book, the biggest question that lingers with me was did Werner really died? He had the house with him when he supposedly died, but when Marie Laure got the house back, there was only an old brass key in it, and not the stone. Did Werner had the stone with her and survived, and now he live somewhere with different identity? But if he did have the stone, why didn’t his loved ones paid the price, like the curse said it would? And if he did, would that made Werner a bad person? Blinded by  richness? That would make Werner not the good person that I thought he was. Those questions swim around in my head, until I read the book again.

Werner never took the stone. He took the house and the key, thinking it would be a nice memento of Marie Laure, or so I hope. Werner never was enticed by money or anything, he was a good kind hearted young boy who loves to study when war took over. He would have the life that Marie Laure eventually had, had it not for the war. Although it broke my heart that Werner did actually die, it also made me warm knowing that Werner was indeed a good person, after all. He only wanted to learn, do better for himself, and eventually to save Marie Laure.

The title was a bittersweet thing, I think.

All the light we cannot see. What light? The first time I read the book, I thought the title refers to Marie laure going blind, how she was deprived of light for the rest of her life. But, who is this “we” in the title? The second time I read the book, I thought that the title was referring to Werner too (probably). He died young, he didn’t get to see the life that he could have have. It was bitter in the way that both Marie Laure and Werner were deprived of that chance, but sweet in that it is something that they share.

Eventually, the book is still my favourite book of this year, having reading it again. I would still very much recommend this book, I still do actually, almost all of the time. The story is tragic, the kind of tragic that shred your heart into pieces, but it is also beautiful. Beautifully tragic was an expression that comes to mind. So, do, try to give this book a try, and I truly am sorry for a bit of spoiler up there.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: All the Light We Cannot See

Author: Anthony Doerr

Rating: Fiction, Historical Fiction

Goodreads link


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