All right, so I am here, utterly confused, with my heart ripped in pieces, sitting at my desk, trying to figure out what I am going to say about this book. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr was the bomb of 2015. Absolutely EVERYONE was talking about it - or at least listening to what other people had to say about it (yup, that was me!). So obviously, I had to see for myself what all the fuss was about. I had heard so many YouTubers, so many Book Bloggers talk so highly of this novel. It wan the Pulitzer Award for Fiction, so it had to be FANTASTIC. As I said, I have mixed feelings about this book, and I will try and put them all in words here. Beware, however, this might be a long review!
All the Light We Cannot See is a stand-alone, historical fiction novel set in different parts of Europe (Germany and France, mainly) during the Second World War. It is told from the viewpoint of two different people: French, blind girl, Marie-Laure; and German, bright soldier, Werner. The book tells us the story of how they lived the war from the perspectives of the attacked France and the attacking Germany, respectively, in a setting in which none of them is the typical representative of their society.
First of all, may I say Anthony Doerr's writing is magnificent. There is no phrase that could have been written in a better, more beautiful, more meaningful way, no paragraph that should have been shorter or longer, no description that could have been deeper or more precise. This book has undoubtedly just the right amount of everything writing-related. It is a delight to pick up this book and just read any random page. The beautifulness of its words is undeniable. In the chapters that were told from the viewpoint of Marie-Laure, I would feel as if I was the one who was blind; the descriptions all miss the element of sight - you won't read a passage that says the Jardin du Plantes was beautiful, or it had the brightest colours. Instead, you'd read about the smell of the flowers and the noises of the insects flying around them. I thought that was absolutely brilliant. Moreover, I absolutely adored the way he was able to put you in the right mood for each scene. Anthony Doerr is a total artist period.
The chapters of this book are very short (often just a few pages, and sometimes just one) - alternating between Marie-Laure and Werner, from their childhood all the way to their late teens, and even after that. I thought that was unique, and I liked it, though I really had to go back in the chapters to see what year I had read last as the sets of chapters are not in chronological order (while doing that I could only thought of the poor people listening to this on audiobook haha!). It's not actually that hard -there are just a couple of dates and years, but I am so bad as remembering these things!
Now. I had actually picked up this book early last year and ultimately decided to put it down because it was too much of a heavy read for the time of the year that I was in -too much work from uni and too much to do. So I just amicably put it down to be read some other time, and this Christmas I decided it was the right time. And so I started reading it, and I was so excited to do it. But although I really did enjoy what I was reading when I was reading it, I never had the urge to pick it back up when I was not reading it, if that makes sense. It's not that I found it boring, or that I didn't like it, but I wasn't loving it and it didn't had me hooked. In fact, I could have perfectly put it down and never picked it up again in more than one occasion, just gone on with my life and never thought out it again. Perhaps it was because there was too much linking narration between the introduction and the part everyone waits for -I really don't know. But because it was such a hyped book, I wanted to believe it would get better and it would come to deserve all the good talk. So I kept reading it, and towards the 300th page, it got me (notice the 300 there, though).
Ultimately, I came to love the main characters, their amazing growth throughout the book (stunning), the marvelous descriptions of the horrible events that occurred all through the 2nd World War (he really did break my heart), the way Anthony Doerr did not leave a single loose end and made me love even the secondary characters. Just for the last 200 pages, I would say the book was worthwhile reading. But the first 300 pages... Just meh.
So now you see why I am so confused as to what to think of this book, and more, how to rate it. I spent way too much time yesterday night debating whether to give it a 3.5 or a 4, although the last part of the book was definitely a 5. In the end, I am going to give it a 3.5 out of 5 stars because I think the fantastic writing doesn't make up for all those first 300 pages.
This book is absolutely stunning, but it just didn't get me as much as I would've liked it to. I'd love to know what you thought about it if you've read it! Any other weirdo like me out there?
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