Review of All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
The opening of this book in St Malo in 1944 at the start of a major raid by Allied forces is very powerful. The writing from the start has an intimacy and conveys a real sense of the oppressive feel of the raid. I found myself hooked by this tale very quickly indeed. The majority of the story concerns Marie-Laure, a blind French girl, and Werner, an orphaned German boy from their early years. The eras in the book do go back and forth however the changes are well signposted and generally quite some time is spent in each era of the story. The tale contained here is gently but persistently woven gradually revealing more and more about both the characters and the times they live in both prior to and during the war.
I found myself completely engaged with both of the main characters in this book. Marie-Laure’s story of blindness, her father’s devotion to her and their escape to St Malo from an occupied Paris was so compelling I really did find it hard to put down at times. Their stay in St Malo again was powerfully drawn in the well crafted words. Werner’s tale of being in a children’s home with his sister and his growing up was wonderfully portrayed too. However the more minor characters were also well drawn and fleshed out too and integral to the overall tale.
In the latter stages the story becomes “edge of the seat” stuff and very hard to put down. The inherent bleakness of war is almost tangible at times the writing was of such a high standard. In a sense this is a book about “quests” as all the main characters are seeking something. In general I’ve not read many “prize winning” books considering that the hype often seemed greater than the story – that is not the case for this book. A powerful and extremely well written tale.
Disclosure – I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.