Title: All The Light We Cannot See
Author: Anthony Doerr
Publication date: April 2015
Publisher: Fourth Estate
Genre: Historical Fiction
Description: "Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.''
For Marie-Laure, blind since the age of six, the world is full of mazes. The miniature of a Paris neighbourhood, made by her father to teach her the way home. The microscopic layers within the invaluable diamond that her father guards in the Museum of Natural History. The walled city by the sea, where father and daughter take refuge when the Nazis invade Paris. And a future which draws her ever closer to Werner, a German orphan, destined to labour in the mines until a broken radio fills his life with possibility and brings him to the notice of the Hitler Youth.
My thoughts: I love books set during the World Wars, I think it's a fascinating time period and full of very touching stories against a tense backdrop. This book certainly brings it to life. The story is told in two parts, moving back and forth between the past, charting the childhood of both Marie-Laure and Werner, and the 'present' (for them) - a period of a few days when they are both in the city of Saint Malo while it is bombed.
Through Werner's childhood you see the development of Nazi propaganda in Germany and it's effect on his village, including the children in the orphanage. For me that was as scary and sad as the events at the special boarding school he later ends up at, which is indoctrinating boys as it trains them for the army. Marie-Laure shows the changes in Paris as the Nazi's come ever closer and then how her community in Saint Malo overcome their fear and begin resistance work.
I got frustrated with the blurb for this book before I started because I didn't think it hinted enough at the plot but now I'm glad it left things out. There are certain threads that run through the story connecting things and acting as catalysts for events, but I don't want to talk about them because I think it was part of the experience to discover them myself as I went along, and make the connections, without being told what was going to be the connection before even starting. What I will say is that Werner's friendships and encounters shape his life, and you see how one thing leads to another. Similarly, Marie-Laure's relationship with her father, his colleagues, and then the housekeeper and my favourite, her reclusive uncle, change over the story and were beautiful and touching to see.
I really loved this story and I hope you'll give it a try too. The ending did let the book down a little, I think, carrying on for a few chapters past what should have been the end. Despite that, it's one of my favourite books of the year so far and I'm so glad I got to read it.
I give 'All The Light We Cannot See' 9 stars out of 10.