All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Thursday, July 16, 2015

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Publisher: Scribner
Publication Date: May 6th, 2014
Pages: 530
Song I Played While Reading: Wasting My Young Years by London Grammar
Rating: 4 stars

Marie-Laure lives 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 to she can memorize it by tough and navigate her way home. When she is twelve the Naxis 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. 

I have a soft spot for historical fiction. Granted, I never read much of it, but when I do I tend to fall completely head over heels in love with it. The Book Thief and The Pillars of the Earth are some of my favorites, and now All The Light as been added to it as well.
I loved the multiple pov's. I loved the short chapters. I loved the characters and their dynamics. I loved the setting. This book was absolutely phenomenal and so so incredibly sad but uplifting at the same time. There's just something about 1940's Germany that plucks at my heartstrings, but also piques my interest. The dedication and love and admiration the people had for Hitler is incredible, in a sickly fascinating way. The warped views and blind justice. Did half the soldiers even know why they were fighting? Probably not. Yet they went out and threw themselves into the fray and died for their country.

"You will strip away your weakness, your cowardice, your hesitation. You will become like a waterfall, a volley of bullets- you will all surge in the same direction at the same pace toward the same cause. You will forgo comforts; you will live by duty alone. You will eat country and breathe nation." 

Our main characters, Marie-Laure and Werner, were diverse enough that it held my attention. Some reviews I read complained about the slow pace, but I honestly never felt that. I looked forward to reading about how Marie-Laure functioned while blind; the strings leading from doorways to kitchen tables, to the trip wire that rings a bell if the gate is opened, to the way she counts drainpipes to get a sense of direction. It was fascinating. It gave her a depth that few kids have, a sense of awareness in the world. She never whined about the disability; instead she made the most of her life, enjoying the small things, like the smell of flowers or the feel of snails or the ocean surging around her feet. She was my precious little child and I wanted to scoop her up and snuggle her to my chest.
Werner was my precious little cinnamon roll. All the poor kid wanted to do was build radios and get answers to all his question, yet was swept up into the Hitler Youth and used for his tech brain. He witnessed things most people don't see in their lifetime today, except for maybe on tv or in movies. He was sweet and thoughtful and small and had white hair. I mean how much more cute could a kid get?! And when him and Marie-Laure met... THE TEARS, PEOPLE. THE TEARS WERE FLOWING. I couldn't figure out what the connection between the two were, and I loved how elaborate it was. It wasn't just one thing, or a small stroke of luck; it was something that was set before they were even born, and that only made the book even more beautiful and thoughtful.
The writing was amazing and vivd, and I could easily picture all the cities they were in; Paris and Saint-Malo for Marie-Laure, and the small mining town where Werner was born, and then all the places he traveled too while in the army.
All The Light We Cannot See is an alluring story about the different aspects of war, the destruction of it, and how sometimes, the most unlikely of people can be set on paths that intertwine in the most unlikeliest of ways.

""So how, children, does the brain, which lives without a spark of light, build for us a world full of light?"

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

""You know the greatest lesson of history? It's that history is whatever the victors say it is. That's the lesson. Whoever wins, thats who's decides the history."

"There is pride, too, though- pride that he has done it alone. That his daughter is so curious, so resilient. There is the humility of being a father to someone so powerful, as if he were only a narrow conduit for another, greater thing. That's how it feels right now, he thinks, kneeling beside her, rinsing her hair; as though his love for his daughter will outstrips the limits of his body. The walls could fall away, even the whole city, and the brightness of that feeling would not wane."

""When I lost my sight, Werner, people said I was brave. When my father left, people said I was brave. But it is not bravery; I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don't you do the same?"

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