All the Light We Cannot See
Title: All the Light We Cannot See
Author: Anthony Doerr
544 pages, published May 2014
Genre: Historical Fiction
I've had my eye on this one since I first started reading the ARC reviews. Historical fiction, WW2, set in France...all elements that I would love in a book. After reading five star review after five star review, I was excited to read this book.
Marie Laure, blind since age six, lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History where he works as a master locksmith. To help Marie Laure, her father builds a model of their neighborhood so she can memorize it with her fingers and navigate her way. When the Germans occupy Paris, they must flee to Saint Malo, in northern France on the Brittany coast to live with Marie Laure's uncle. In Germany, an orphan boy named Werner and his sister Jutta become enchanted with a radio Werner finds. He becomes a master at building and fixing radios that earns him a place at an elite military academy. Werner is sent throughout Europe and finally into Saint Malo, where he crosses paths with Marie Laure.
Perhaps it's because I read so many outstanding reviews that I did not love this book. Maybe my expectations were too high. Regardless, I liked this book, but did not love it. Let me start by saying what I did love about it--the writing. Doerr's writing is exquisite. Its beautiful, eloquent, and flows perfectly. I also loved Marie Laure and really felt for her. What Doerr did well in this book was to help the reader understand the world from Marie Laure's perspective--through all the other senses except sight.
I'll admit this book was a slow read for me. I had trouble really getting invested in it until about the last 200-150 pages. What tripped me up was the short chapters and the time frames jumping back and forth. The chapters were no longer than 4-5 pages, most of them only 2-3 pages, and then it would change perspectives again. This didn't work for me. The years jumped back and forth a lot--I found myself turning back to see what year it was again. Both these elements, combined with the 500+ page length, made this a slow read for me. The plot itself was good, but I don't feel it needed to be as long as it was.
Despite the aspects of the book I didn't like, I still recommend this book, especially if you love historical fiction and WW2. Doerr's beautiful writing helps make up for the book's drawbacks, and Marie Laure is a character you can't help but fall in love with.
Overall rating for "All the Light We Cannot See": B