Book Reviews

All the Light We Cannot See

Author: Anthony Doerr
Published: May 6, 2014 by Scribner
Genre: Historical Fiction
Hardcover: 531 pages
Stars: 2 out of 5 stars
To Purchase: All the Light We Cannot See

This novel runs a parallel course following two central characters. Marie Laure LeBlanc is a blind French girl who with her father, has to flee Paris when the Nazi’s invade. Prior to them fleeing, her father is a locksmith at the Paris Museum of Natural History. The museum is home to one of the most valuable diamonds in the world. Called the Sea of Flames, it is believed by some to carry a curse. The museum makes three copies of the gem and sends four different people out with it when they have to flee Paris, one of which being Marie Laure’s father. No one knows who is carrying the real diamond, and a thread running throughout the novel is the terminally ill Nazi Officer who is searching for the diamond.

When Marie Laure was little and lost her sight, her father built her a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she could memorize it and find her way home. When they flee Paris, they hide the diamond in one of the mini houses which has an intricate way of turning each piece in a certain order to reveal the hidden gem, just like a Japanese puzzle box.

The other main character and parallel story line is Werner Pfennig, a German who has always been fascinated with radios. After repairing a senior-ranking German officer’s radio, he is given entry into Hitler’s Youth Academy, which eventually leads him to a position in Hitler’s army tracking down unauthorized use of transistor radios.

This novel is an intelligent, detailed literary novel that begs to be read slowly to savior the beautiful descriptive language. It is not plot driven. It is more of a character study of two individuals and the effects that the war has had on the them.

I did not love this book. I may have been expecting more of a love story. In a 530 page book, the two central characters meet in person for exactly 10 pages of the novel! I am not a huge fan of historical fiction, nor am I a big fan of WWII stories, so I think it is just not for me. I am clearly in the minority, because 1,500 people on Amazon give it five stars, and it won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2015, so don’t listen to me! I tried to give an impartial description of the book, so you can decide for yourself if it’s your cup of tea.

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