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