From the Back Cover
Marie-Laure LeBlanc lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works. 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, Werner Pfennig, an orphan, grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they have never seen or imagined. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments and is enlisted to use his talent to track down the resistance. Marie-Laure and Werner, from warring countries, both having lost many of the people they loved, come together in Saint-Malo, as Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.
“Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.”
It’s taken me a while to gather my thoughts on this one. I have to admit, ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE really intimidated me for the longest time (as any massive, Pulitzer-winning, WWII novel would). It was a slow read for me with not much happening in terms of plot, but the characters and the writing are why I kept returning. Doerr pens elegant, well-crafted sentences and his characters are not only vividly-described but heartbreakingly beautiful as well. I quickly grew to adore Marie-Laure and found myself flipping through the pages to find her next chapter.
“What do we call visible light? We call it color. But the electromagnetic spectrum runs to zero in one direction and infinity in the other, so really, children, mathematically, all of light is visible.”
ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE focuses on themes of interconnectedness, with the various characters crossing paths at different points in their lives. There are so many untold stories from the war, and Doerr hints at this throughout the novel. You would never think that two characters as different as Marie-Laure and Werner would come together, but they did. I felt like the majority of the book was leading up to their meeting, and then when it finally happened… I was disappointed. It wasn’t a big meeting, more like a small introduction. I know this isn’t a plot-driven book, but there are virtually no elements of plot, and I could definitely sense that it was missing. Luckily, the beautiful prose made up for the lack of story.
Overall, I can say that I enjoyed ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE, but, sadly, not as much as I was hoping to.