All the Light We Cannot See: A Novel Paperback – April 4, 2017
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A beautiful, expansive tale Ambitious and majestic. --Steph Cha "Los Angeles Times ""
A revelation. --Michael Magras "BookReporter.com ""
A tender exploration of this world's paradoxes; the beauty of the laws of nature and the terrible ends to which war subverts them; the frailty and the resilience of the human heart; the immutability of a moment and the healing power of time. The language is as expertly crafted as the master locksmith's models in the story, and the settings as intricately evoked. A compelling and uplifting novel. --M.L. Stedman, author of The Light Between Oceans"
Anthony Doerr again takes language beyond mortal limits. --Elissa Schappell "Vanity Fair ""
Dazzling Startlingly fresh. --John Freeman "The Boston Globe ""
Doerr conjures up a vibrating, crackling world Intricately, beautifully crafted. --Rebecca Kelley "Bustle.com ""
Doerr deftly guides "All the Light We Cannot See" toward the day Werner s and Marie-Laure lives intersect during the bombing of Saint-Malo in what may be his best work to date. --Yvonne Zipp "Christian Science Monitor ""
Doerr is an exquisite stylist; his talents are on full display. --Alan Cheuse "NPR ""
Doerr sees the world as a scientist, but feels it as a poet. He knows about everything" radios, diamonds, mollusks, birds, flowers, locks, guns but he also writes a line so beautiful, creates an image or scene so haunting, it makes you think forever differently about the big things love, fear, cruelty, kindness, the countless facets of the human heart. Wildly suspenseful, structurally daring, rich in detail and soul, Doerr s new novel is that" novel, the one you savor, and ponder, and happily lose sleep over, then go around urging all your friends to read now. --J.R. Moehringer, author of Sutton and The Tender Bar"
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But all that said, I didn't find it enjoyable to read.
It took a while to figure out why. Even while reading it I'm thinking to myself "This is so good", but at the same time wondering why I'm bored and looking forward to the next book.
Finally I think I nailed it. Nothing really happens. It's all set in amongst the background of a lot happening, but other than hearing about it, there's not much that really goes on with the characters that so much time has been spent making us love.
This feels like all the parts of a fantastic book that happen BETWEEN the major plot points.
I spent the majority of this book waiting for something to happen, and when it doesn't it feels like there no payoff for the time invested in these characters.
Maybe this is what literary fiction is about. I can see why people may like it. It's life through the eyes of others.
But books are a form of entertainment. This wasn't entertaining to me, and I couldn't wait to start a new book.
For one thing, Doerr’s verbs nail the action in arresting ways. Bombers “shed” altitude. Pigeons “cataract” down a cathedral spire and “wheel out” over the sea. Teacups “drift” off shelves, and paintings “slip” off nails. Dread “trundles” up from the blind girl’s gut. Car horns “bleat.” Snowflakes “tick and patter” through trees.
This prose begs to be read aloud or at least heard by your inner ear. Consider these snippets:
“…the low moonlit lumps of islands ranged along the horizon.” (Oh, the consonance—all those lush l’s, not to mention the two soft m’s woven in: “moonlit lumps”!)
“…the last unevacuated townspeople wake, groan, sigh. Spinsters, prostitutes, men over sixty. Procrastinators, collaborators, disbelievers, drunks. Nuns of every order. The poor. The stubborn. The blind.” (Oh, the rhythm—you can practically see the conductor’s baton twitching to the beat of “wake, groan, sigh.” My toe is tapping at the next line: “Spinsters, prostitutes, men over sixty.” I’m clapping along as if to a jumprope chant by the time we get to “Procrastinators, collaborators, disbelievers, drunks. Nuns of very order…”)
”…each storm drain, park bench, and hydrant…” (Each DAAH-dum, DAAH-dum, and DA-dum!)
“Cold fog hangs in the budding trees.” (Each of the first three words—“Cold” and “fog” and “hangs”—takes a full beat, slowing the sentence down, defying forward movement. It’s as if these three words themselves are hanging there—BOM BOM BOM—in the budding trees.)
No wonder this novel took me so long to read. I read it for the poetry.
Whether or not you read for this singular kind of pleasure, you’ll find this story a timely reminder of humanity during a time of inhumanity.
And you’ll write more masterfully for reading it.
Call me old-fashioned, but I used to love browsing bookstores in person, and the rise of the internet has made it all too easy to find and purchase subpar (albeit popular) books. There are so many entertainment alternatives that many truly great stories go under the radar...until it's announced that they'll be made into a movie (in fact, many read like screenplays, as if the author anticipates that's where the paycheck is). And yes, the characters and the interwoven storyline and the dramatic WWII backdrop could make for a blockbuster hit.
But. This is a book you really should read, and relish. (I read this on my kindle and hid the progress percentage because I didn't want it to end.) Doerr writes with absolutely beautiful imagery. It's emotional and vivid and earnest. A wonderful reminder that books were written to provide a unique insight into how others think, and feel, and live, and love.
Top international reviews
Is happy a word to be used when talking about this book, this time period? Maybe not but the author did make me very happy. It’s very important to me that I feel connected to the characters and transported to places in the books and it did that and more.
The book jumps from time periods of Marie-Laure’s and Werner’s life, from their teen years to their younger years and back and forth. Sometimes it was a bit confusing to keep track of it, sometimes because it was an e-book, it was even frustrating to not be able to flip back to the pages I lost my thread. (An actual paperback really helps with this, it just gives me satisfaction if nothing else.)
Everything about the book made me fall in love with it. There are the usual World War II horrors and you can’t escape them, most times, I was so acutely uncomfortable with the scene but I moved ahead anyway. This book is an absolute must-read if you like reading about the World War II. Not because it’s super informative or because there’s tons of other things that could make you relate to the people of the times more. It’s more to understand how it felt for the children, for those who grew up in Germany and had to join Hitler’s army. For the children who had nobody left, those who couldn’t do much for themselves. Marie-Laure and Werner might be fictional but there were real people who were in their places at some point. They must have faced countless problems and horrors.
It is that feeling that makes me think that people should really read it.
I have a lot of wonderful things to say about it and I could say it but there’s also the one bit that I felt almost unnecessary in the book. Yes, the hunt for the Sea of Flames. The diamond. That part always felt unnecessary and almost tacked on as if it was an afterthought. I am not saying I didn’t enjoy the fantasy of it and there was a realistic part to it but at the same time, it just didn’t click with the rest of the book.
However that does not negate all the awesome things about this book and so, this remains a five-star book.
I would recommend it to anyone who loves to read World War II fiction or who wants to see how language can be elevated to this level. If you wanna read in leisure, you totally can!! This book, despite it being based during the World War II, has an almost unhurried pace to it. It’s just me who wouldn’t stop reading.
And if you still have any doubts about this book, it’s worth mentioning that it won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2015. So, there’s that?
Marie Laure is an 11 yrs old blind girl, who is taken from Paris to St Malo, by her father for safety. Werner is an 11 yrs old German boy, who is a genius with technology i e old fashioned radios of the era. He attends an elite school for the German Ideal. Werner progresses to be an important part of discovering illegal radios used by the Resistance in the St Malo area.
Some very interesting facts are given and there’s obviously a lot going on; mostly about the sadness, hardship and devastating consequences of war. Paths cross along the way. Various plot threads interact. There are some heroic pleasing characters and equally some distasteful cruel individuals.
Would recommend but advise sticking with the unusual style.
The idea was good but too many switches of timescale.
Terrible recommendation but on holiday and nothing to read and only the Kindle with me: should have got a Sample.
I enjoyed reading this novel. It is wonderfully written with some stunningly beautiful passages. Anthony Doerr is an immensely talented writer and I am not surprised he won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. However, I was quite disappointed with the ending. After much anticipation, the meeting between Werner and Marie Laure was all too brief and lacked any kind of impact. In addition to that, there was no real resolution regarding the Sea of Flames storyline. Sadly, the ending just fell flat which is a shame as the story up until that point was very enjoyable.
I found the pace of the narrative quite slow and the lengthy, detailed descriptions of radios tedious. Endless talk of wires and connections didn't really do it for me, but I appreciate that it may be fascinating for anyone with an interest in that area.
I really expected to love this novel, but it left me feeling flat and unsatisfied.
Well it wasn't such a good read for me and I don't now feel as though I'd been missing out at all not reading it for all those many months
One of the main problems I had was the prose. I didn't care for the one and two word sentences (though they are not actually sentences). I didn't care for the way that the author liked to use obscure words, for example: Towards the end of the novel – the word “praxis” is used. The word originated in the late sixteenth-century (according to the kindle dictionary) via medieval Latin from Greek, literally “doing”, from prattein “do”.
The sentence it was used in was talking about the making of paper planes by a six-year-old: “...different wing tips, tails, noses, mostly seeming to love the praxis of it”.
It is what the author wanted to say, but when: “... wing tips, tails, noses, mostly seeming to love making them” would have given the same sense and been understood by more people.
A little bit further on the author says: “On the front door come knocks, three.” Now why not simple say “Somebody knocked on the front door three times”. “Come knocks, three” sound like it could have come from a children's nursery rhyme.
Alright once again it is what the author wanted but I found it irritating.
The problem was that the more I read of the novel the more I was irritated by it, and the more I was irritated by it, that I then started caring less about the novel – and about the characters in the novel.
Too many obscure lists of thing – molluscs etc.
Another issue for me was that I was reading American English (I'm not American) so that if I was reading about something happening in France that was happening to French people in a French town and I am by this time IN FRANCE and I can believe it even though I'm reading it in English but then I read an Americanism and it becomes less convincing somehow as all of a sudden I've got an American accent in my head.
Then there was the models. Instead of spending hours and hours making the models why not use those hours to walk with her around the real streets and familiarise that way – like anyone else would do with any sense. So a bit of a week point plot-wise.
I think it's a shame because this novel had a great deal of appeal for me initially but having now finished it (and it became a chore towards the end) I know to avoid this author in future.
The story can be unpleasant at times and it was interesting to read a book which was done from a German point of view, even if it did just consolidate what we already know about the dreadful Nazi regime. The description of the blind girl and how she gets about was excellent and certainly would make me more understanding.
I would very much recommend, The only thing that attracted was the ending was too long I did want to know what had happened to each character but unusually I found the level of detail given too much.
The book felt very long, and I appreciated the short chapters leading me deeper into the story which is multi layered. We jump back in time with chapter one to 1934 and follow Marie -Laure in France and Werner in Germany up to the siege of St. Mali and into the present.
The book expresses and gives me a glimmering of understanding how it must have felt to grow up as a child and young person in Hitler's Germany uncomprehending until it was too late or almost too late, what the regime was asking if them or doing to them, unaware of becoming aware as Werner did of what that made him or what he had lost in human terms of himself and what perhaps he could have it should have been. This is not an aspect or perspective of the war from the German side I have not given much thought to before or read much about, and it was beautifully written and conceived and thought provoking. A wonderful multi layered well written book.