Review of All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

I must confess straight out that it took me three attempts to successfully finish this novel. The first time, I was teaching and had precious little reading time, and allowed a book club friend who gave up to influence me, and I did the same after reading six or eight chapters.

During the Christmas break, I checked it out from the Alvin library again and immediately was engaged by the main characters, who are skillfully drawn. One is  a blind French girl of superb intelligence and perception who is being raised by her museum curator father on his own. One is immediately drawn to MarieLaure, cares about her ,and appreciates the loving relationship she and her father have.

The second character (most of the book has a chapter about her, one about him, the next about her, etc.), Werner, is a German orphan who is skilled and totally self taught in electronics.  His fascination is with the new invention, the radio.  When he reaches 10 or 12, he is told the Fuhueer needs his skills and is absorbed by a rigorous training program for elite “Hitler Youth”.

No, the two do not meet until the very end of the book, and the outcome is definitely NOT what the reader expects.

The writing is amazing, poetic ,yet flowing at the same time, but it is extremely detailed, and once again, I quit.

After the book had been on the New York Times Best Seller List and had a spike at Christmas when many people gave it to someone as a gift, I decided there “must be something to this book” and checked it out for a final time.

By now, WWII was ending, Marie was in a tiny town where her eccentric and mentally disturbed (thanks to WWI) uncle lived, and her father was in prison.  From the last 1/3 of the book, it became the most suspenseful book I have ever read!

Take a look at this random excerpt: (I literally opened the last 1/4 at random and pointed a finger and copied…)

“…the voices stop. She can hear (remember Marie Laure is blind)a scuffle and then a shot comes…

Footsteps hurry across the landing and enter the room.  There is a splash and a hiss, and she smells smoke and steam…

She can hear…as he runs his fingers along the back of the wardrobe (where she is hiding).  She tightens her grip on the handle of the knife.”

One last word that must be added.  The book is definitely of literary quality in the truest sense of literature.  (As a lit major in my graduate studies, I feel qualified to paste that label on this novel.)

I am so glad I finished this book.  It is the best, bar none, book I have read (or finished, technically)in 2016 so far.





Author: Rae Longest

This year marks my fiftieth year in AAUW (American Association of University Women). The Alvin chapter was begun in 1947, and as a new, green teacher to Alvin Independent School District, I joined in 1968. In the 80's we began a book group to share our love of reading, books,and fellowship with other women and girls who loved the same. We resurrected the group on-line in September of 2015. Eventually Powerful Women Readers folded as an on-line book club, but I kept the title and turned it into a blog. (See "Introduction,"first blog). This is my first experience at blogging or publishing anything and is becomes more fun with each blog posted. I am currently teaching as an adjunct at The University of Houston Clear Lake. This makes my 28th year there after three years at Alvin Community College and an almost-twenty year career as a classroom teacher with Alvin Independent School District. Reading and writing are "in my blood" just like teaching is. I hope you enjoy the blog.

2 thoughts on “Review of All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr”

  1. There is something about a story written in present tense that makes it feel immediate. That was part of the beauty of this book for me.

    Another aspect of the book that I liked was the blindness of the character. That’s a hard characteristic to pull off, I think, for a sighted author. Somehow, Doerr got this just right. The character’s blindness resulted in a plethora of other sensory images in the story, and I loved the beauty of that, as well.

    Liked by 1 person

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