“Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.”// Review of “All The Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr

Title: All The Light We Cannot See
Author: Anthony Doerr
Genre: Historical fiction
Date Read: 26/06/2016 – 06/07/2016
Rating: ★★


I said when I first started reading this book that the crossover between Pulitzer Prize winning books and books that I enjoy is pretty much zero. There’s a reason for that. While I enjoy well-written books, books that win these sorts of prizes tend to be crafted in such a way that leaves me unsatisfied, even if I can appreciate the intricate work that went into making them. I did push through to the end of this one, but it did have that same effect.

All The Light We Cannot See is set during WW2 and focuses on two stories that of Marie-Laure LeBlanc, the blind daughter of the locksmith at the Natural History Museum in Paris, and Werner Pfennig, Marie-Laure and her father escape Paris to live with her Uncle Etienne, as her father is carrying a huge secret, and Walter, a boy with a knack for electronics, is recruited into the German army to detect enemy radio transmissions. As the war goes on, their stories gradually converge.

Walter and Marie-Laure both had the makings of interesting characters, but as I said earlier, the book is written in such a way that screams “I took a day to craft each sentence perfectly” and that distracted from the characters to me. Characters are the most important part of a story to me, so if I can’t connect to them, it doesn’t matter how amazing the plot is, I won’t have as much interest.

And that is the other thing… there isn’t a huge amount of plot here. While I do find it incredible the kinds of things regular people did to survive during the Second World War, so much of this book was just filled with people doing mundane, every day stuff, trying to get on with their lives when the world was falling to pieces around them. I felt I was getting both Marie and Werner’s entire life stories, when events that happened to them years before the main story could really have been summed up in a few sentences rather than across several chapters.

I know that there are people to whom this sort of high literature with clever language appeals, and more power to them. I am not one of those. However, I am sure that for serious historical fiction fans, it is one that should be picked up at some point.

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Five characters I would have over for dinner

Jennifer Rainey, author of These Hellish Happenings (a book I highly reccomend) and owner of the blog, Independent Paranormal, posted her own list of five literary characters she would invite over for dinner and I thought it might be fun to do the same. I was a bit surprised how easily this list came to me. I had thought I would have to ponder it a bit longer. But anyway, here is my list:

Essie Davis as Miss Phryne Fisher in the ABCTV series based on the books

– Phryne Fisher (The Phryne Fisher Mysteries series by Kerry Greenwood) – The Hon. Miss Phryne Fisher is a glamorous lady-detective living in Melbourne in the 1920s. She has come into money, but grew up very poor, so she never lets her wealth go to her head, and has an unwavering desire to ensure that justice is always served. She would flirt with every other guest at the table, be dressed amazingly, and be generally fabulous, as she always is.

– Ebenezer Scrooge (A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens) – This is one of my favourite books ever, and I would love to chat to Scrooge about the revelations the Spirits of Christmas gave him. He became quite jovial at the end of the book, and I think he’d definitely liven up the conversation.

Artemis Fowl (Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer) –  this teenage criminal mastermind is snarky and crazy intelligent but, later in the series, actually grows something vaguely resembling a conscience. He assists the People (fairies, etc) in preventing rogue fae from destroying the world, and would have plenty to tell us about. I’ll just… make sure I’ve got absolutely nothing around that he’d be interested in stealing while he was visiting.

Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird

– Puck (A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare) – anyone who knows me well knows that “If we shadows have offended…” is my favourite passage of Shakespeare, ever. Puck would definitely have a few tricks up his sleeve to keep the other guests entertained (or on their toes. Could go either way, really).

– Atticus Finch (To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee) – do I even need to elaborate on this one? Atticus Finch is kind of the ideal human being: a gentleman, good father, strong sense of justice. The kind of guy you could quite willingly take home to meet your mother. Actually, a conversation between Atticus, Phryne and Artemis would be something to behold, I imagine.

Also, honourable mentions go to Ford Prefect from the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series and Sherlock Holmes because, while I love them, I’m not sure I could actually sit through an entire meal with either of them.  Neither of them are very big on that thing called tact, and I don’t like having conversations with people like that. I know, some of the ones on my list, particularly Artemis Fowl, might be a bit like that, but I think Artemis does at least have a grasp on the concept. So.

So that is my list. Who would be on yours?