Book Review : All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

So guys.

This is the book that has been a constant visitor in my mind for it’s massive and tremendous love from readers across the globe. I was so excited to find this book in my local bookstore! But a little confession (and I’m fairly sure readers could relate) I kept this book in the dust for I don’t know how long (years perhaps)

And finally here comes the time when I  decided to clean up my TBR mess. Alas, here we go!

Genre : Historical Fiction
Page : 531 pages
Published : 6th May 2014

Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. 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, Werner Pfennig, an orphan, grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they have never seen or imagined. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments and is enlisted to use his talent to track down the resistance. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.

“Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.”

Where do I begin? I do not know why, but I have strong impression for the book before even I begin to read the blurb. I expect this to be brutal, intense and full of hope just like any other historical fiction out there that focused on the war.

But how amazed I am, this book offers a whole new side to historical fiction literature.  

All The Light We Cannot See— A compelling story of humanity and the limited choices we have to live the future.

To tell you honestly, even if I adore historical fiction, I do not have much knowledge about history. I used to always hate history classes. But weirdly, after graduating, I am so fond of historical stuff. Of course, I couldn’t catch up with every historical lessons that perhaps, has been taught to me before. Because this is just another hobby of mine to pass time and to quench my curiosity. Therefore, as I do not know much about history, It took me a while to understand the time period and what’s happening in the book.

For the first few chapters, I need to go back and forth to really understand what’s going on in the book. But once I get the hang of it, I love the story. The story are frequently told in two perspective. 

1. Marie-Laure

What I love about this character is her curiosity and her sharp intuition. Marie-Laure lives in Paris with her father, before fleeing to Saint-Malo– to live with her gradfather in the tall house by the sea.

2. Werner Pfennig

It’s amazing to know how smart an orphan could be. Werner Pfennig lives in a mining town in Germany where he grows up with her little sister. Self-taught, he became an expert in handling and fixing radio and similar instruments.


There’s so much to talk about these two characters. But I’m trying my best not to spoil much because apparently, I think what makes this book worth while is the characters. Rather than the war, All The Light We Cannot See focused more on how the characters live before the war exploded, how they cope with the cruel situation, how the war impacted them and the road they choose to save a future for themselves.

How limited choices they had to live the future they dreamed for.

And I absolutely love how this book tells the story of not only Marie who lives in Paris, but also Werner as Germans. It’s fascinating to learn the story in two sides. 

However, as much as I love how the story build up by the characters, I don’t find myself attached with the characters. I know them, understand them, love them and feel connected to them but I don’t particularly find myself attached deeply to the characters.

And just another suggestion, I think this is the kind of book you read when you’re not in a rush. This book has a slow build up and rather than the flow and action, this book is more about being familiar with the characters. And so, patient is a must. 

For those who loves technical stuff, I think you’re going to love how detailed this book presented all the complicated machines (which a small toad like me find it hard to understand) but I get the idea, of how independent and smart Werner is.

The best part of this book is the setting!

As I read, I got to learn more about Saint Malo and of course, to admire the uniqueness and beauty of the city.

Another best part of the book, is the last few chapters.

It’s just overwhelming and upon reading them, thoughts after thoughts came right through me. Of how cruel the war could be, of how kindness could also grow during war, but most of all, no matter which sides– be it good or bad are all victims to the war.

There’s so much to say about this book but to give you the best experience of getting the feel of the book, I think it’s best to find out bits by bits by reading the book directly. For me, I think this book deserves the attention even though I don’t find myself that attached to the book. But I hope you are willing to try reading this book.

“But it is not bravery; I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don’t you do the same?”

Author: Celine

2 thoughts on “Book Review : All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

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