All The Light We Cannot See

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

Unable to escape the mines that claimed his father’s life, the future appears bleak for orphaned dreamer Werner.

Blind since the age of six, curious Marie-Laure has always lived a sheltered life full of mystery and puzzles.

Little do they realise that seismic events are about to shift everything they thought they knew.

And when the tide of war sweeps them away, they will finally learn the truth about redemption, loyalty and sacrifice.

But most importantly, they’ll learn that their fates are inescapably intertwined.

All The Light We Cannot See is the acclaimed second novel of American author, Anthony Doerr.

Raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Doerr had his first publication in 2002 with a collection of short stories (The Shell Collector).

His first novel, About Grace, was later published in 2004 and he became writer-in-residence for the state of Idaho from 2007 – 2010.

Published in 2014, All The Light We Cannot See has won numerous awards including the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2015 and the 2015 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction.

It also spent 118 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list for hardcover fiction and the same publication also named it one of its 10 best books of the year.  The novel was also shortlisted for the National Book Award.

The story is written in third person narrative and is told for the perspective of numerous characters, but mainly focuses on the lives of its two main protagonists – Marie-Laure LeBlanc and Werner Pfennig.

The story telling in this novel is tremendous and as a result the structure of the text is rather sophisticated.

The chapters are very short and generally alternate between the initially individual stories of Marie-Laure and Werner.

The novel is set out into 14 sections, with the first section (zero) beginning on August 7th 1944 at the start of the Allied liberation of German held Saint-Malo.

This puts the reader straight into the middle of the action and introduces the key dilemmas and characters.

Sections one, three, five, seven and nine then begin to fill in the story chronologically -starting in 1934 up until August 7th 1944 – whilst the other sections carry on the story from that point.

It may sound confusing but it doesn’t seem that way when you’re reading it and the intelligent structure adds mystery and suspense.

Both Maire-Laure and Werner are likeable, readable characters but I particularly took to Werner, as I felt he was the more complex and realistic of the two.

Werner seems to reveal more faults and weakness and he doesn’t always make the right choices. But I feel he grows far more throughout the story and really tries to turn it around when it matters.

There are about 11 key characters within the story and all are written beautifully and with great individually.

The style of writing is also very readable, Doerr is masterful with words and its great to read a WWII novel that is so unique in story and setting.

Both the human and physical sides of the war are explored in a subtle and personal way without getting lost in the overwhelming events of the time period.

Overall, it’s unsurprising the novel has achieved so highly, as it is a truly intelligent, provoking and thrilling piece of literature. I believe this is a novel we may continue to hear about for years to come.

Published in paperback by Fourth Estate in the UK, All The Light We Cannot See retails at £8.99.

In the US, published by Scribner, the paperback copy retails at $17.00 and it costs $27.00 for the hardcover.

 

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