Christmas 2016: I received four books from the bestselling/ new fiction Waterstones collection. All The Light We Cannot See was respectively first on my to-read pile. A New York Times number one bestseller and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction 2015, I was really keen to start reading. Anthony Doerr has essentially crafted a beautiful and emotionally intricate novel based in a time of tragedy against the renowned backdrop of World War Two. An extremely unconventional war novel painted through a whole palette of colours with a classic boy meets girl twist, Doerr’s interlinking of the characters French Marie-Laure and German orphan Werner effortlessly blurs the boundaries between an occupying army and the oppressed citizens. With a narrator that doesn’t take sides in this novel and only subtly on the topic of war, not only is it a moving fictional novel, it casts those fighting for the German army in a new light.
The novel follows two storylines that inevitably intertwine. Young and blind Marie-Laurie’s world turning upside down as she escapes her beautifully painted Parisian life, while Werner, an enigmatic orphan, strikes success, winning his place in the highest esteemed German school. What really grasped me while reading this novel was the capability of Doerr to explore the war and its implications from so many angles. Maurie Laurie is an outstanding character that utilises her impairment to actually become so much more insightful than those around her. With a love of fiction and thirst to explore the beaches and landscape, Maurie is a beautiful symbol of the innocence caught up in the second world war. From a life destined to work in dreary mines, Werner represents the opportunities that war brought to boys like him. While he excels with his vast knowledge Doerr still instilled into him an understanding of war being inherently wrong. Rather than dehumanising German boys like Werner, this novel explores how they still had true emotion and perhaps too got caught up in the bigger picture.
This novel is a fantastic read. Structurally the chapters and time frames flow effortlessly to give real perspective into the characters’ lives from 1944 all the way into the 70’s and then finally 2014. All The Light We Cannot See is a magnificent timepiece, a true page turner that emotionally can resonate with the reader. I’d never read a book written by Anthony Doerr, but after All The Light We Cannot See it’s evident I’ve been missing out. I highly recommend this novel to anyone who loves the vivid imagery and a poetic style of narration. The only negative of this novel was that it ended too quickly. Leaving behind the sense of disillusionment that hangs over you after you’ve finished something brilliant. Overall, a beautiful novel full of colour that is a true page-turner, which still gives a vast array of ideas to think about even once it’s concluded.
Words by Megan Tarbuck