All the Light We Cannot See – Hauntingly Beautiful

All the Light We Cannot See

By Anthony Doerr

Rating: 5/5 Stairs

AlltheLightWhile the cover is just gorgeous, All the Light We Cannot See is not a book I would normally pick up to read. It takes place during WWII. I have a very difficult time reading fact or fiction set during WWII. These awful events happened to real people. Men on the front lines. Jewish families in concentration camps. Boys pulled into the great war machine. Women and children whose towns have been occupied by the enemy. I get incredibly sad reading and thinking about what these people went through.

I decided to read All the Light We Cannot See to help meet my 2015 Reading Challenge, as this book is the 2015 Pulitzer Prize winner for Fiction. I’m glad I did. This review is going to contain a lot of quotes, simply because I found the writing to be so lovely. Frankly, my review is pretty bland in comparison to the haunting beauty of this novel.

I normally don’t include summaries here since they are always on the Goodreads link I provide with the title, but sums up the novel shortly and sweetly:

Awarded to “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr (Scribner), an imaginative and intricate novel inspired by the horrors of World War II and written in short, elegant chapters that explore human nature and the contradictory power of technology.

The story quickly switches back and forth between Marie-Laure, a blind French girl, and Werner, a German boy who is fascinated with science, especially the unseen radio waves.

The air swarms with so much that is invisible! How he wishes he had eyes to see the ultraviolet, eyes to see the infrared, eyes to see radio waves crowding the darkening sky, flashing through the walls of the house.

– All the Light We Cannot See

As we read the book, we realize that while Marie-Laure and Werner have never met, they have a deep connection through Marie-Laure’s dead grandfather.

The bulk of the story leads us from 1934 to August 1944, when the Allies attack to liberate Saint-Malo, a walled city in northern France by the sea. Marie-Laure’s life begins in Paris, and we follow her and her father as they flee the city in 1940, when the Nazi’s occupy Paris. In a mining town in Germany, Werner is desperate to better himself, and ends up in an elite German military school for boys. We watch him as he goes along with the crowd, but he does struggle with things he sees.

Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.

– All the Light We Cannot See

There are so many points throughout the book that deal with things unseen – light, radio waves, behaviors, even ghosts.

The brain is locked in total darkness […] And yet the world it constructs in the mind is full of light. It brims with color and movement. So how, children, does the brain, which lives without a spark of light, build for us a world full of light?

– All the Light We Cannot See

“I heard that the diamond is like a piece of light from the original world. Before it fell. A piece of light rained to earth from God.”

– All the Light We Cannot See

Now, I’m not good at finding what I call “deep meaning” in books. I am an unintentional surface reader for sure – it’s just my technological nature. But this book has so much going on below the surface. Even I caught glimpses as I read it. Beautiful metaphors. Mr. Doerr weaves his tale expertly, threading events and people and life together in a beautiful tapestry.

This is a book about different kinds of bravery. Living a life in order to see what other people don’t. Understanding that when you blindly follow, you are living in darkness.

You would like Frederick I think. He sees what other people don’t.

– All the Light We Cannot See

“I don’t want to make trouble, Madame.”
“Isn’t doing nothing a kind of troublemaking?”
“Doing nothing is doing nothing.”
“Doing nothing is as good as collaborating.”

– All the Light We Cannot See

Open your eyes to this book, and read what you’ve been missing.

22 thoughts on “All the Light We Cannot See – Hauntingly Beautiful

  1. Beautiful review. I am a huge fan of books and fiction set in or inspired by WW1 and 2. I’m a huge history nut to be honest. And this book just sounds phenomenal, from all your quotes! It’s been on my TBR for too long.
    xoxo 💋

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m so glad you enjoyed this, Kristi! I can’t wait to pick this one up myself!

    And I know you said you don’t tend to pick up WWII stories, but have you ever read Unbroken? It was a pretty popular biography since the movie came out the beginning of this year. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (John Boyne) and Night (Elie Wiesel) are two ya books on the holocaust that I really enjoyed as well. So true! These stories are so hard to read knowing that they are somewhat true even if they are fiction (Night is an autobiography actually), but it’s amazing to learn more about the war, time period, and human resilience. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • This book really was wonderful. I hope you like it Summer!

      I have not read any of those books. I will look into them, but no promises. 🙂 I read Anne Frank when I was in school – so, so sad. And oh my gosh the film Schindler’s List just made me cry. I used to think it was just holocaust books/movies that affected me, but it really is anything about WWII. My husband loved to watch Band of Brothers, I didn’t make it past the first episode. (The thought of those first men off the boats at Normandy, human shields for those behind them!) Just the fact that these things (and much, much worse) happened to real people – it is so horrific what they went through. And I mean people all over the world, not just one side or the other. I am interested in the history (I love history!) but at the same time it just makes me so incredibly sad. But I will look into those three books. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • I also read The Diary of a Young Girl in school too, so I definitely understand. In school we also watched The Devil’s Arithmetic which was a pretty gripping movie. I almost felt like a holocaust victim myself. Seeing the torture on major motion pictures makes it so vivid. And I haven’t heard of Schindler’s List but the wiki summary seems very intriguing. Also Steven Spielberg is great. I’ll definitely watch it when I have a free weekend or maybe winter break. Thanks for mentioning it!

        And awesome, I hope you enjoy if you get a chance!


  3. I was just telling my family that this is the one book in my 6 years as a bookseller has gotten rave reviews from everyone I have met. Customers are literally offering unsolicited glowing reviews of this book on a regular basis. It’s one of those books that seems to have transcended all reader types, ages, and preferences, which really impresses me. I have loaned my copy to my mother-in-law, but I plan to read it soon. I can’t pass up this book that has so many amazing reviews… yours included.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m thinking of using this as my entry too on my Reading Challenge. Books about history, world war, civil war, etc. usually catch my attention. I like how you brought a detailed review of this book without spoiling readers! Thanks for this!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are welcome! I always try to keep my reviews spoiler free, as much as I can. I don’t like going into a book spoiled – sometimes even the blurb on the cover gives away too much information. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I loved this book! Every character in the story (especially minor characters) was a treat. I also liked your “unintentional surface reader” phrase; that happens to me a lot

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: TTT: Great Book Quotes | Hidden Staircase

  7. Pingback: TTT: 2015 New (to me) Authors | Hidden Staircase

  8. Pingback: TTT: My Favorite Reads From 2015 | Hidden Staircase

  9. Pingback: TTT: Ten Recent 5 Star Reads | Hidden Staircase

  10. Pingback: TTT: International Edition | Hidden Staircase

Sit down and share a cuppa with me. Let's discuss.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s