All the Light We Cannot See: Book Review

A Read Well Worth the Time

All the Light We Cannot See:  Book Review

Kevin Jin, Staff Writer

All the Light We Cannot See is a coming-of-age story by Anthony Doerr set in World War II Europe. In this book, touching character development establishes the themes of blindness, environmental influence, and greed. Doerr’s unique writing style captivates readers of all preferences and ages, and his use of myth and the possibility of magical powers leave the reader hooked on the story.

         The novel follows two children, Marie-Laure Leblanc and Werner Pfennig. Marie-Laure lives in Paris with her father, a museum locksmith, and she has been blind since the age of six. Werner is an orphan living in a group home in Germany with his sister, desperately trying to escape the fate of his father, who died in a coal mine. Then World War II begins, transforming life for both of them. Marie-Laure is forced to flee Paris with her father and a rare gemstone called “The Sea of Flames” that is rumored to be cursed. Werner is recruited by the Nazis for his incredible radio engineering skills, and is sent to track transmissions from enemy soldiers. Marie-Laure must live with her great-uncle Etienne, a World War I veteran suffering with social and emotional trauma, in Saint-Malo, a coastal town invaded by the Germans, debating the decision of whether or not to support the Resistance. Werner must face the plights of a soldier, including shooting and killing, and ends up traumatized by the brutality of war and the killing of innocents.

         Doerr begins the story in medias res, jumping between time frames and showing snippets of events. Although his technique may confuse some readers, the story slowly unfolds and all becomes clear, allowing the audience small epiphanies until they can connect all the dots. His use of symbols is extensive, enabling the reader to conduct endless thought-provoking analysis, and sensory imagery enables the reader to feel as if they are actually there, blindly counting storm drains while walking with Marie-Laure or undergoing harsh physical training with Werner. The plot itself is amazing, with heart-rending moments to tear up the reader and mystical moments that cause the reader to wonder whether “The Sea of Flames” is actually cursed or just a myth. This story will leave a deep impression on the reader, teaching them lifelong messages about human nature and the self.

         Overall, All the Light We Cannot See is an amazing coming-of-age story that all teenagers should read. It may seem confusing at first, but the end is worth it.