All the Light We Cannot See

By Anthony Doerr                       Genre: Historical Fiction
Reviewed by AB                           5/5 stars

all the light we cannot seeFor Christmas 2014, I received the Pulitzer-prize winning novel All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr. The work is over 500 pages, and I read it in 48 hours. I know this is so cliché, but, really, it was difficult to put down, and I may have skipped out on a few games and movies with the extended family because I was so enthralled.

It’s not just another World War II novel.

As a history buff and the granddaughter of a machine gunner in Patton’s 4th Armored Division who, even at almost 96, is still a history guru himself, I feel like I “know” World War II. However, I’m the first to admit that I know sadly little about what it was like for young people in France and Germany during those years. Sure, I know about the Hitler Youth, and I know about the occupation of France, but I don’t think I’ve ever understood so clearly what it must have been like to live through that. I appreciated the much-needed (at least by me) insight into the Nazi Youth movement and, conversely, the view into the world of the French Resistance (picture a bunch of elderly women, not the young, romantic Hollywood portrayals we’re used to).

HitlerYouth

Hitler Youth Movement

Doerr explores the issue of kids in a war zone, ones who are completely helpless to stand against the tide of evil; and yet his two main characters—a 14-year-old blind French girl named Marie-Laure and a teenage member of the Hitler Youth named Werner – in their own small ways fight back.

In addition, as one reviewer observed, Doerr knows something about everything. I learned more about WWII era radios and gemology than I knew was possible in a work of fiction.

The writing proves exquisitely rich.

Anthony Doerr in his home, Boise Idaho.I agree with readers who say that the prose is hauntingly lyrical, and the characters are certainly round and captivating, even if their “ends” don’t tie up nicely like I wanted. Doerr instead crafts a deliberate plot that rises to a realistic, beautiful climax. And with two separate storylines that run parallel to each other, Doerr creates slowly-building suspense and intersects the storylines only at the end when Marie-Laure and Werner meet.

If you enjoyed The Book Thief, you’ll be drawn to this one too. There’s a reason that this book repeatedly earns 5 star reviews. And won a Pulitzer.

Purchase a copy of All the Light We Cannot See
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