Book review: All the light we cannot see by Anthony Doerr

I stumbled across this book by chance. All of a sudden it was appearing on random websites, as I browsed new books to take on. And when I say take on, that’s exactly what you need to do with this book. Running at 544 pages, it is not what you consider an easy or a quick read. It’s a book that makes you delve deep and feel whatever the narrator or the character is feeling. The backdrop is World War 2 and the story revolves around a French girl who is blind and a young German boy who is eventually recruited into Hitler’s army. The story unfolds in short 2-3 page chapters, flipping between the stories of the various characters, narrated in first person. This makes it incredibly easy to follow because as a whole the theme is quite heavy and the intricate details make it a dense novel.

It’s fascinating to see the scenery change from that of Saint Malo to the army barracks; from the French trying to find refuge in homes to the army front where young German boys are suffering at the hands of their superiors who are trying to mould them into cut-throat soldiers.

The fascinating bit is that a chunk of it is written from the perspective of a blind girl. Her father is her guardian and guides her on how to figure her way about town and on the streets. He creates intricate miniature towns so she can use the model to find her way around the city. Everything she feels, hears or touches is beautifully described, so you can go through what she’s going through.

On the other end is this German whiz kid who lives in an orphanage and can take apart and put radios back together. He and his sister are fascinated by the radio because it connects them to the great big world out there. Of course then he is recruited into the army and everything changes, but I will leave that up to you to discover.

Some bits of the book drag on though. The descriptions are beautiful but I feel like it could have been edited further to be a shorter book. Also the paths of the two main characters takes too long to meet. I wish it could have happened sooner, but then again, this book is a good read. I recommend it to anyone wanting to explore that era, and anyone who has an appreciation for good details and characterisation.

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