Book Review: All the light we cannot see by Anthony Doerr

How do you tell someone you love them or hate them, without telling them the reason why you feel that way? How to you admire or describe something, without giving away the nature of that thing? Can one be clinical about describing something that has touched one’s heart? I have all these questions in my head right now, because I have just finished reading/listening to All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr, and am struggling to write a review, which has no spoilers. I want you all to know how I felt while reading this book, how I loved and cried while reading a book and that hasn’t happened to me in a long time, and yet, I don’t want to tell you all that because I want you to read this book, without knowing anything about the beginning, middle or ending of the story- this is going to be a tough one. I guess I would just have to live with discussing my feelings in my book journal and on Goodreads 🙂

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This book won the Pulitzer award in 2015 and I can absolutely see why. If you read the cover, you’ll already know that the story revolves around two central characters- Werner and Marie, towards the end of World War 2. One a German boy with exceptional intelligence, another a French girl, who is blind. The author takes you through the forming years of their childhood- the ones leading to their early adolescence and all the things they go through. You love both the characters in the book- it is hard not to. You vouch for both of them, you want both of them to find each other and to find their freedom. You want to see both of them win. Around them, there are many other characters who come into your life too- my favorite being Jutta (Werner’s sister) and Madam Manec (the housekeeper at Marie’s uncle’s place). I loved them for standing their ground and fighting for what they believed in, right from the beginning till the end.

The book is more than 500 pages long, but really, don’t let that intimidate you. The chapters are small and the story is so interesting and simply written, that you want to keep listening or reading, just to know what happens next! The chapters alternate between Werner and Marie’s lives, and between the present and the past leading up to the present. Finally, the book ends with the future- what happens in the end, when everyone grows old. Another really interesting thing about the book was how the author has mixed science and magic in the same story! On one end there is Werner’s experiences with radio, inventions and science and on the other, there is Marie’s experiences with the stone called the Sea of Flames, and how the mythology around that stone acts as the centre of everything that happens around her, or at least that’s how she is able to perceive it.

The story is about real people, believable people who love and care about their families, and just about living a simple and happy life. It is also about the harsh realities of war. The kind of untreatable wounds that war inflicts on everyone- young, old, weak and strong. Everyone loses in a war- really, everyone. Some of the chapters in the book are described with so much emotion and intensity that it made me cry. These are fictional characters and yet, I cried for them. I loved the book and disliked it for making me cry too- but isn’t that how you feel when you’re in love? When you care about someone or something? They or it in this case, has the power to give you joy or to hurt you too. Which is why, I will always stand for anti-war. There is absolutely no reason that justifies war, no reason at all. And more so in today’s world, when we all already have what we need and could have more by helping each other out, than by waging war. I wish the leaders of the world were able to see through their thick heads about the irrationality of wars- I wish..

Please do read this book, it is one of the highly recommended reads from my side:) And if you have read the book, I’d love to discuss more with you, since at least there won’t be spoilers in the comments section! Hahaha

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