Review: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Some books are just plain amazing. This book was definitely one of those that leaves you feeling breathless at the end. It left me feeling like an emotional wreak for the rest of the afternoon I finished it.

Everything about All the Light We Cannot See drew me in. The beautiful but matter of fact writing captivated me in the first paragraph, the characters, who were drawn out well and likable in spite of their flaws, kept me wanting to dive more into their personalities.

But before I go any further, let me explain the plot a bit. All the Light We Cannot See is about Marie-Laure is the blind daughter of a Parisian locksmith in the Museum of Natural History. She lives a happy life and loves her father as much as a daughter possibly can. They are inseparable. Then in 1940, Marie-Laure’s world is altered forever. The Germans invade Paris forcing Marie-Laure and her father to flee to Saint-Malo, where her “crazy” great uncle lives.

As interesting as this is, there is another side to the story. Werner, a German orphan, and his sister grow up in a small coal mining town where their parents had previously lived, worked, and died. Werner and Jutta, his sister, share a deep love for music, together they listen to the small radio they found and fixed. Their favorite programs involve music and science. Werner loves to listen to the science lectures of a French man. These lectures spark curiosity in Werner and he develops a love for science and a talent for math and engineering. When Werner’s gift is noticed by a high ranking Nazi official,  he is sent to a Hitler youth school.

The story is ultimately about the progression of Werner and Marie-Laure’s characters and the moment their lives intersect. It’s about finding the light in a dark, dark world.

Werner and Marie-Laure find light in the people around them, in books, in nature, and in simple pleasures.

” For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)

All the Light We Cannot See contains some pretty profound ideas and feelings about the world and about people. I was honestly surprised at the depth this book contained. One does not come by such deep novels often today.

Although All the Light We Cannot See is an extremely good book, it has some drawbacks. As a secular book, the author uses some vulgar language (however, this language never comes from the two main characters) and takes God’s holy name in vain. Evolution is also mentioned a few times, but so are heaven and God. There are a few moments when the characters say they do not feel that God is there or that He cares about their situation.

On the contrary, God was there, and is still there. How ironic is it that in a book about finding the light and goodness in the world, the true light is portrayed as a far away character!

I would highly recommend All the Light We Cannot See to anyone is search of a beautiful, depth filled book. But keep in mind as you read it that the true Light is always there even when we cannot see Him.

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” (John 8:12)

Favorite Quotes:

“Don’t tell lies. Lie to yourself, Werner, but don’t lie to me.”

“What you could be.”

“A shell screams over the house. He thinks: I only want to sit here with her for a thousand hours.”

“It was enough when Werner was a boy, wasn’t it? A world of wildflowers blooming up through the shapes of rusty cast off parts. A world of berries and carrot peels and Frau Elena’s fairy tales. Of the sharp smell of tar, and trains passing, and bees humming in window boxes. String and spit and wire and a voice on the radio offering a loom on which to spin his dreams.”


photo credits: basically bookish on tumbler

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