Tag Archives: All The Light We Cannot See

Book Review: All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (5/5)

21 Dec

With how many World War II novels I’ve read lately, I put off reading this book. I didn’t think something different could be done. I didn’t think I could sill be surprised by an ear that has dominated the Historical Fiction market lately. I should have trusted that the Pulitzer Prize winner would be worth it, though. I wish I’d read this sooner.

Cover image via Goodreads

Cover image via Goodreads

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Summary from Goodreads:

Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.

Marie-Laure is the last character I would expect to stare in a WWII novel and that was part of what made this novel so exceptional to me. Werner I could expect and understand, but Marie-Laure made this book for me. I went into the book thinking it would be all like Werner’s story, but adding in an alternating plot line kept me going. This isn’t to say I didn’t like Werner’s plot, it was just more of what I’d expected from the time period. I liked being surprised and learning about shells and museums and stones. It was a great addition and what really brought the story together for me. Talking about radios was unexpected as well. I liked something that was very applicable to the time but under-represented in history making such a dominant appearance int he novel.

I don’t know much about being blind, but I felt that the accommodations Marie-Laure had were ingenious. Counting storm drains and using strings to find her way were great ideas her father had. I liked her story and how she grew up: the struggles she had and parts of life that Werner went through that she missed out on. Werner’s story is one I was much more familiar with because of similar stories I’ve read and I wasn’t as impressed with him as a character. He seemed like another complacent Nazi Youth.

If it’s not obvious, I’ll say now that I loved Marie-Laure. She was so strong and insistent that she could do everything that needed to be done around the house. She did what she could for Etienne after Madame Manec passed and did things he couldn’t do himself. Her father helped her as much as he could, but he still made sure she was self-sufficient. I liked the ending because it showed what she was capable of.

It’s hard to grow up in a confusing time. The 9/11 attacks happened when I was 11 so the confusion and war of my time are the War on Terror. There have been times I felt scared to leave my house and times when I had to be brave. Flying in November 2001 scared the pants off of me. It’s not the same as having bombs falling around your house and your father missing, but I can understand how Marie-Laure felt afraid of what was going on around her without being able to understand it. Things seemed to happen for no reason.

Anthony Doerr Image via The New York Times

Anthony Doerr
Image via The New York Times

I thought the last parts of the book were beautiful. From the time Marie-Laure and Werner met to the end, I was enchanted (and thankfully needed to spend one and a half hours in the car). The story wrapped up in a way I wasn’t expecting which is so rewarding as a reader! I hate coming to the end of a book and I can figure out how it’s going to end. I was surprised and excited the whole way through.

I thought there was a small drag in the middle when Marie-Laure was waiting for her father to come home and Werner was in school. The intense action of the beginning and end of the book ebbed then. I think it was covered well with flashbacks and von Rumpel’s story, though, and I didn’t lose my interest.

My edition was narrated by Zach Appelman and I thought he did well. He kept the suspense up when it needed to be and had a good voice for female characters. He didn’t do very much vocal changes for characters as I’ve experienced in other narrators, but I liked that in this book. The plot and narrator were fluid so there would have needed to be a lot of different inflections to have one per character. It would have been too much. I like Appelman’s decision to do this sparingly.

I’ve seen a lot in books lately about how much our lives intertwine with those of others and how this begins before we are aware of it and can change our lives forever. Marie-Laure and Werner met for such a short time, but he saved her life twice. The ways he did it developed when he was very young and first heard her grandfather on the radio. She didn’t know he existed for years. No one he loved knew how he died, his life ended after saving Marie-Laure’s. Was that his purpose in life? Once he’d fulfilled it, was there nothing left for him to do? If that’s so, what was the great thing she accomplished that was worth Werner’s life? I’m not sure I can think this way about the book, but it’s things that it made me think of.

Writer’s Takeaway: Writing multiple points of view is very hard. I’m trying to do it in my 1920s YA book. Both characters are the star, one cannot be favored over the other and they have to be very different people. Doerr did a great job with this in Werner and Marie-Laure. I admire his balance in their stories though I’m not brave enough to bring in a von Rumpel to push them together! That’s another person I’m not ready to write.

I really enjoyed the plot, story, and characters when I wasn’t expecting to. 5 our of 5 stars.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Posts:
All The Light We Cannot See – Guide | Novel Gobblers Book Club
BOOK REVIEW: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr | Commas and Ampersands
Review of All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr | A Thousand Finds
Book Review: All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr | My Happy Coincidence

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WWW Wednesday, 9-December-2015

9 Dec

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at Should be Reading and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

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The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?


Station ElevenCurrently reading:  Hit 85% in Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. I got another renewal out of it so I hope to keep pushing through and finish it by the end of the year.
Nothing with I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai. I want to be back into this by the end of the year and maybe wrap it up early 2016.
So excited to tell you all I started Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel! It’s as great as you all promised it would be and I’m excited to finish this one up quickly because it’s hard to put down.
I just started listening to A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab. I got this audiobook for free back when the Ford Audiobook club still existed. I’m excited to get into it because I’ve seen so many good reviews.

IMG_2549 Recently finished: Three! I finished three! I used my half day on Friday to finish Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. Immediately after, I did the folding and finished that up on Saturday. Doesn’t it look awesome?
It was a nail biter, but I finished All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr on Sunday driving back from my writers group meeting. I had a paper copy on hold at the library just in case. Phew!
On Monday, I finished up the end of Animal Farm by George Orwell. I didn’t realize I was so close to the end so it was a nice surprise!

Another two book reviews up. This should keep steady now that NaNoWriMo is over. The first is The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank which I finished before NaNo. I really enjoyed reading (listening) to this book after having seen the play twice. 4 stars.
The second is Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner. I wrote this review late and I didn’t finish it up until after my book club met! I’ll have to write up that reflection this week and you should see it next week. 5 stars.

WatchmanReading Next: I’m trying not to get too far ahead of myself. I only have One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez on my bedside table though I have an idea what my first book of 2016 will be. There’s a lot of overlap in my book clubs early in the year because of library sponsored author appearances so I’ll have time to read at least one of my choosing. Yay!
I saw that I’m next in line for the eAudio of Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee! Eeeeek, so excited!


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 2-December-2015

2 Dec

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at Should be Reading and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?


SenseCurrently reading:  Still hovering at 80% in Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. Thanksgiving didn’t give me a lot of eBook time.
Nothing with I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai (still).
I made a lot of progress with Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. I’ve started to care about the characters a lot more and I’m hoping to finish this weekend. It’s hard for me to read a lot of this in one sitting so I read a little bit as often as I can.
Still on pause with Animal Farm by George Orwell.
I’m worried I might not finish All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr before I have to return it. I’ve got it for a few days still, but I’m not yet 75% of the way through! I’ll have to tighten down on listening to it while I do my stretches and cook. I hope that will be enough!

Recently finished: I can’t remember the last time I reported nothing finished for two weeks in a row. This is such a downer.

100 yearsReading Next: Still not change. I’m really excited to start Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel after all the wonderful things I’ve been hearing about it. You guys are getting me to finish Austen as fast as possible!
I hope to be in the middle of One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez by Christmas. I think that would give me enough time to finish it before my book club meets to talk about it.


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 25-November-2015

25 Nov

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at Should be Reading and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?


MalalaCurrently reading:  I hit 80% in Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. I find the parts with Luisa more interesting so I’m glad to be back to that.
Nothing with I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai.
I’m still working through Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. I’m about 25% of the way in so doing well enough. I hope to finish it this month, but that might not happen.
Nothing with Animal Farm by George Orwell. Another book on standby.
I’m really enjoying All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. It’s a great story and the audio on this one is incredible.

Recently finished: None this week! Too much NaNo time, not enough reading time!

Station ElevenReading Next: No change here, either. Next is Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven which is tempting me on the side of my bed, waiting for me.
The other is One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Again, sitting there and trying to push me through S&S every day.


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 18-November-2015

18 Nov

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at Should be Reading and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?


All The LightCurrently reading:  I’m still trucking through Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell during lunch. I’m actually making decent progress now that it’s back to the characters I’m interested in. I can’t find the connection between future Korea and the old British guy in the nursing home yet. I’m hoping that one becomes clearer soon.
Nothing with I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai. If everything goes well, maybe by the end of the year.
I’m picked up again with Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. It’s still early on and I’m reminded what frustrates me about writing from that era, but I’m trying to look past it!
About half-way through Animal Farm by George Orwell. This will have to wait a while before I get into it heavily again because of my new audiobook.
I got All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr on audiobook. I wasn’t expecting it to come in so soon, but I’m excited it did! I only get this for three weeks so I’ll have to work at getting through this chunkster before my hold expires.

AnneFrankRecently finished: Two this week. The first is The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. It ends so abruptly that I wasn’t ready for it and thought I was starting a new disk on my way home. The final disk was a series of afterward and essays. I really liked those because it gave good context to the story. I rated it 5/5 Stars.
Saturday morning I finished Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner. He’s a wonderful writer and I’m so glad I read this. I’ve read his two mos popular books now and his other ones seem to be significantly less popular so I’m not sure I’ll get to that any time soon.

One review this past week, for Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. I’ll have a book club discussion for this in December so look forward to that as well.

100 yearsReading Next: I’m still planning on Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven after I finish S&S. It’s come so highly recommended by you all that I’m itching to pick it up.
I have another book club book waiting for me by my bedside, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. This is a book I recommended to the group so I hope I enjoy it and I hope others do, too. If not, I’ll have a lot to answer for, haha.


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!