World War II nonfiction books are my sweet spot, so when my good friend recommended All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, I jumped at the opportunity to read it.
The book begins in Paris when the Nazis were beginning to occupy the city. There are several characters that share the spotlight, but the two main characters are a blind girl, Marie, who lives with her father and a young Nazi soldier named Werner.
Marie and Werner live separate lives but fate brings their paths together in the end. Marie begins in Paris with her father who works at a museum. She uses other senses to experience the wonders of the museum and learns to read braille. Meanwhile her father takes possession of a dangerous jewel, but whether its a replica or the real thing is up for debate.
Marie and her father leave Paris by foot with the dangerous jewel towards their cousins in Saint-Malo. When they get there Marie learns new things and meets new people. An underground resistance begins with loaves of bread, and soon the Nazis come. Marie’s father disappears one day and Marie is left with her cousins. The war rages on in Saint-Malo and Marie learns how to fend for herself, counting her steps to the bakery and back and learning how to transmit a radio.
Meanwhile, Werner studies hard to learn how to fix radios. He gets chosen to go to a Nazi academy, and he begins his training. He meets friends and questions some of what is going on at the academy, but keeps quiet. Eventually he is deployed to France. He locates radio signals of the resistance and his partner does the dirty work. Werner makes it to Saint-Malo and the rest in the book…no spoilers here!
Doerr writes with passion and has the unique ability to mesh two stories into one cognizant thought. Two distinct characters living through Nazi occupied France with two completely different perspectives. This is not an easy feat to write, but Doerr does it well.
I really enjoyed the short chapters because I have a newborn at home and I was able to stop frequently. I also enjoyed the switching back and forth between characters and timelines. Usually I am not a fan of these types of stories because I have hard time following the story from so many different angles. But the way Doerr writes keeps the timeline clear and characters in line.
Things I liked about All The Light We Cannot See
- Short chapters
- Interesting characters
- World War II setting
- Mysterious writing
Things I didn’t like about All The Light We Cannot See
- Timeline swapping (going backwards and forwards)
- Unresolved mysteries
Should I read All The Light We Cannot See?
Yes! The book is only $9 on Amazon, get it here, and it is well worth the read!
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