All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

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There are indeed very few novels that truly linger in your mind after you read them. Anthony Doerr is my newest addition to my list of beloved author’s which includes Markus Zusak, Khaled Hosseini, Yann Martel and Jhumpa Lahiri, who make the story so electric that it flows in your veins and you hardly sense time passing by. ‘All the Light We Cannot See’ is a magnificent spectrum of vivid imagery and metaphors which combine together to bring about, just the best. I loved this book. And that is an understatement as it doesn’t justify the attachment I developed towards Marie-Laure Le Blanc and Werner Pfennig, two very different people from two very different walks of life. One doesn’t just read this novel. He/she has needs to savour all its flavours and the thousand more it has to offer during re-reads. One has to stop at beautiful, poignant moments and close his/her eyes to take a whiff of the imagery. Aptly, this book comes with a lot if references to light:

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

Subtle storytelling and intricate plot lines did the job for me. Not to mention, the fact that it is also one of my favourite genres out there: Historical Fiction. Wartime struggles and the impact WW2 had on people is not erasable. On the contrary, it is indelible. The wounds might heal, but the scars survive. To tell another story, on another given date.

In its essence, ‘All the Light We Cannot See’ is an ode to Mother Nature who sustains all life forms and shields and nurtures her children with unmatched patience. She balances love, war, despair and the fragile nature of the human race on her shoulders. Doerr has sculpted this novel with utmost precision and brilliance. It took me two weeks to read this book and I’m sure that I haven’t absorbed the entirety of it because it has the potential to unravel significant things everytime you pick it up and flip through its pages.

One of the reasons why I decided to purchase this book and then read it, is undoubtedly because of the hype that surrounds this book like a bevy of bees. People raved about it relentlessly and as the saying goes, curiosity killed the cat and I decided to finally give in and acknowledge what everybody was talking about. In the end, reading this book proved fruitful as I left the premise with lots more than I had originally intended to. The story is set in a similar World War 2 backdrop and is quite similar to ‘The Book Thief’ because of its premise, but that is where the similarity ends. We meet two different individuals who drag you into their lives slowly, but surely. Eventually, their paths converge when we hit the 450th page of the book. I have to say that I was slightly disappointed with the time Werner and Marie spent together because I had expected something more, what with so many aspects of the story I read before. Yet it took a sudden turn, which I had not expected it to. Of course, having a precious diamond that makes the owner immortal is another cherry on the cake. All of these multiple story lines, somehow, make complete sense and do not confuse the reader. Skilful narration, though a slow one, sets up the stage for the point were Marie and Werner’s lives collide.
At some point of the book, I really felt that the story was getting a bit prolonged. However, it was set right towards the end. Doerr’s characters are all very fleshed out and larger than life. The thing is, you don’t just read about their lives, you experience their agony, joy and despair. Characters are incredibly important for a plot and if there is no proper character development, the crux of the story is not solid. Doerr beckons the reader to ponder and speculate about his characters and their decisions, this keeping the reader hooked to the book.

Doerr’s words don’t just speak to the readers, they reverberate through the pages and ricochet everywhere so that the maximum impact is achieved. There were lots of scientific elements to this book and I cannot deny the fact that I learnt a lot of new things while reading it, which lead me to say that this book is the perfect gift for a Ravenclaw. I, being a Ravenclaw, cannot recommend this book enough to all my fellow Ravenclaws out there. Read this book, everybody. The book presented some unforgettable characters like Werner’s friend Frederick and Uncle Etienne, who shine brilliantly even though the plot focuses on Marie and Werner. Each character is prominent, making it a very good mixture of main characters and side characters. Here are some wonderful quotes from this book:

What do we call visible light? We all of colour. But the electromagnetic spectrum runs to zero in one direction and infinity in the other, so really, children, mathematically, all of light is invisible.

See obstacles as opportunities, Reinhold. See obstacles as inspirations.

Some people are weak in some ways, sir. Others in other ways.

A real diamond, his father used to say, is never entirely free of inclusions. A real diamond is never perfect.

But minds are not to be trusted. Minds are always drifting toward ambiguity, toward questions, when what you really need is certainty. Purpose. Clarity. Do not trust your minds.

Each time she steps outside, she becomes aware of all the windows above her. The quiet is fretful, unnatural. It’s what mouse must feel, she thinks, as it steps from its hole into the open blades of a meadow, never knowing what shadow might come cruising above.

Disgrace is not to fall, but to lie.

Time is a slippery thing: lose hold of it once, and its string might sail out of your hands forever.

After all that praise, this book was not entirely perfect. Those little imperfections made this book a memorable one. We jump back and forth between different periods during the Second World War and that gives us an enhanced picture of what really happened during the war and the terrifying days that followed. We had a couple of loose ends, but I believe that the author left them like that for us to think about. The ending was quite satisfying,yet, ambiguous, leaving me wanting for more.

On the whole, this book was a stunner. I didn’t shed a tear but I’m sure that a person who is not as stone-hearted as I am will definitely shed buckets. One of my favourites of this year.

Have you read this book? What were your thoughts after you finished it?


Until next time,


Published by

Anj @ seaweed books

Bibliophile, music lover, art enthusiast- all rolled into one fine cinnamon roll.


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