Anthony Doerr’s World War II novel All the Light We Cannot See has been on the bestseller lists for over a year now (it’s currently #3 for hardcovers, after 56 weeks), so you’re probably wondering why I’m so late in publishing my review. Often we review books when they come out in paperback or audio, or for a new printing. In this case, it’s because Jennifer mentioned it as one of the books on her list in her essay Why You Need a Summer Reading List, and I figured better late than never!
All the Light We Cannot See is the dual narrative story of Marie-Laure, a blind girl who flees to the seaside town of Saint-Malo with her father when the Nazis occupy Paris, and Werner, a German soldier whose expertise with radios results in his position tracking down members of the French resistance.
Their paths cross eventually, but there’s quite a bit of build-up getting there. Marie-Laure’s relationships with her father is quite special, his love for her is clear in his determination to teach her to survive on her own without sight. Werner is not an exactly willing member of the Nazi party, but uses the opportunity to expand his knowledge and love of communication, having been orphaned at a young age.
All the Light We Cannot See won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, was named one of the New York Times’ 10 best books of the year, and shortlisted for the National Book Award. Often a book that receives such high critical praise is in danger of being over hyped, but this is a book that lives up to the hype.
Notes on the audiobook: At just over 16 hours, All the Light We Cannot See is on the longer side of the audio book spectrum but not so long as to be unmanageable. Narrator Zach Appleman does not change his voice for different characters, so I lost the thread of the story at times, but he was easy to listen to.
For a video of Anthony Doerr talking about his inspiration for the book and to hear an excerpt, visit Simon & Schuster Audio.