All the Light We Cannot See, a Pulitzer Prize Winner and National Book Award Finalist, lives up to it’s reputation as a creative and innovative work of historical fiction. The Word War II setting, while overused and poorly written in the past, shines in for Anthony Doerr as he creates a tale filled with likable and relatable characters and an equally accomplished narrative. Marie-Laure, a blind girl from Paris, lives with her veteran Uncle Etienne in Saint Malo, France, where they protect a precious gem from the Museum of Natural History collection in Paris. Marie-Laure and her Uncle own one of the only radios left in Europe. Werner, an intelligent orphaned German boy from a mining town, is trained by the Hitler Youth to track radio signals for the Nazi’s; He helps them hunt resistance fighters. The reader begs for more, finding both ideas and words swiftly flowing, as she speeds through this text. She discovers a wealth of refreshing content, which holds up until the end.
Doerr’s characters are carefully selected and unique in their traits and contributions to the text. The part each person plays in the novel, when pieced together so skillfully with those of the other characters, reveals that the right characters and narrative can make even the most popular subject matter new. The characters possess vulnerabilities, for example, Marie-Laure, is blind, that make them human and fragile and their stories unpredictable in the face of: struggle, war, the unfairness of life. Perhaps most important, the protagonist characters earn the trust and esteem of the readers, while the antagonists are loathed.
The reader develops an interest and investment into the future of the characters and the story, in part, because Doerr uses his plotlines and settings, so efficiently. The readers sees Doerr combine and overlap several divided stories, which eventually come together to create a cohesive whole. Throughout, the reader is challenged to analyze the events and actions of people, to question the concepts of good and bad, light and dark. The narrative is full of twists, there is never certainty for the characters or the reader. What will happen to these people whose struggles are so accessible? The reader needing to know more and hoping they will make it through makes for a great book.
This novel is good for a number of reasons, but it stands out because of the reader’s attachment to the characters and their special plights. Often people read a book and most of it’s contents are soon forgotten. This is a different sort of story, and it’s contents stand out, because the reader takes the journey with the characters. Doerr finds a way to keep his audience thinking and remembering long after the last page is turned.
4 out of 5 Stars