Book Review: All the Light We Cannot See-Anthony Doerr

all the light

There are moments that pass over us like a transparent, non perceivable veil. They float above our head, leaving us with a feeling that is indescribable as the moment itself cannot be grasped. There are books that leave us with the same feeling. We close the cover, and reflect on the moment, the words that have reverberated in between our bones. Such is the effect of All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.

This book follows the lives of two people whose complexity creates a rift in the light, the lines of time, yet their presence in history goes unnoticed, as time drifts on. Werner Pfenning is an orphan boy in Germany who lives and breathes, and eventually fights in the World War II. Marie-Laure Leblanc is a blind girl who lives with her father in Paris. Both characters must faces the mass affects of war, the black holes history swallowing up everything surrounding them. Werner is driven by his deep love of science and Marie-Laure by her passion for words and books. The novel is the webbing and flashbacks of the their lives, the German force against French Resistance.

This novel is not just a war story, depicting the lives of the fallen. Yet, this novel uncovers the lives of the forgotten, the ones whose story was never written. It’s a parable, a metaphor, a paradox threaded together by the light people have emitted, are emitting. Doerr writes about an magnanimous event in history and creates a fantastical story about the stories that go untold. The stories that are buried deep underneath the rubble of war, death, life.

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

This novel is more of an experience that an actually sit down read. It’s some of the most beautiful prose I’ve read in a while. The words on the page are so fluid and read so lyrical, it’s almost as if you are listening to music, or running your hands through water. The novel clings to you, yet washes over you like a cold bath. The language itself makes the novel worthwhile. I enjoyed reading this book very much, it was so different and refreshing to read a war novel that doesn’t read exactly as a war novel but more of a musical sonata. Doerr has proven to be an absolute terrific writer as he lets us in to the magic he creates.

We all come into existence as a single cell, smaller than a speck of dust. Much smaller. Divide. Multiply. Add and subtract. Matter changes hands, atoms flow in and out, molecules pivot, proteins stitch together, mitochondria send out their oxidative dictates; we begin as a microscopic electrical swarm. The lungs the brain the heart. Forty weeks later, six trillion cells get crushed in the vise of our mother’s birth canal and we howl. Then the world starts in on us.

It’s difficult to review this novel, because how can you review an experience that is iridescent? I simply loved this novel just for the prose alone. During my reading I found it to be a little drawn out and I wondered when or where the climax in the novel would take place. It was difficult to sometimes find the central purpose and plot of the novel. However, after I finished reading, I realized that Doerr didn’t create a novel that followed the simple rise and fall format, as does most novels. He wanted to pull the reader into the orb of light that constantly is streamed throughout. I would recommend this novel to anyone who is ready for unconventional, or simply for one who loves prose or lyrics. Enjoy the masterpiece.


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