Review: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

by Joli
Published: Last Updated on

Magic. Pure magic.

This book…I’m almost at a loss for words! If you haven’t yet read All the Light We Cannot See, it’s imperative that you put it on your TBR list this instant.

Anthony Doerr’s brilliant and captivating style of writing and story-telling blew me away. I was enthralled with the story and the characters from the moment I started reading, and couldn’t put this book down!

The story is a World War II story, but it’s so much more than that. It’s so deeply human…cares, loves, curiosities, passions, yearnings, growing up. All of this is weaved into the parallel stories of two main characters, Marie-Laure and Werner. One French, one German, both swept up in opposite sides of the war in life-altering ways. Both children, both forced to grow up before they should have. The stories start in parallel, and then you get these expertly crafted wisps of the stories being somehow connected, and you watch as they slowly inch their way toward intersecting.

The way Doerr uses light throughout the book captivated me. It’s the visible light that Marie-Laure can only see inside her brain due to her blindness, the creative spark of light inside the minds of children, the way a character near the end turns on all her lights to look as if she’s expecting someone, rather then being lonely – all of this and so many more uses of light were just brilliant. If I was still in college and writing a paper on this book, I would have gone all sorts of crazy with post-its and underlining, and it would have been awesome.

Doerr’s prose is poetic at times. He inserts these quick little lines within paragraphs that add such an amazing quality and lightness, like when Marie-Laure runs up the stairs in the house in Saint-Malo:

Second floor, third fourth fifth.

Another reason I think one of I love Doerr’s prose so much is because, writing from the point of view of a blind child, he has to describe so much by sound and feel, and he does it so beautifully:

Madame Manec’s energy, Marie-Laure is learning, is extraordinary; she burgeons, shoots off stalks, wakes early, works late, concepts bisques without a drop of cream, loaves with less than a cup of flour. They clomp together through the narrow streets, Marie-Laure’s hand on the back of Madame’s apron, following the odors of her stews and cakes; in such moments Madame seems like a great moving wall of rosebushes, thorny and fragrant and crackling with bees.

Just gorgeous. I could go on and on, but I don’t want to give anything away in case you, fair reader, haven’t yet picked up All the Light We Cannot See. As for me, I’m going to head on over to my bio page and add this book to the list of ones that I love, because I loved it that much!

Have you read the book? What did you think? Let me know in the comments…I’d love to chat about it!! Luckily it’s my book club book this month, so I’ll get to talk about it at our meeting later this month while I scarf the amazing mashed potatoes at Kieren’s Irish Pub in downtown Minneapolis :]

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Whit February 19, 2016 - 5:33 pm

That second quote you used in your review is just absolutely gorgeous. I haven’t read this yet, so it’s going on the TBR list!

Sunday Brunch #TBR Roundup - Literary Quicksand February 21, 2016 - 9:17 am

[…] the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr Because Joli told me […]

Janna March 1, 2016 - 8:14 am

Joli! It’s Janna from book club. I loved your review and felt the exact same about this book. The way Doerr writes made me see without needing to see even though I’m not blind. Loving the website 🙂

Joli March 1, 2016 - 9:40 am

Hey Janna!! Thanks for coming to the site and reading my review :] I agree! I’ll definitely be reading anything else he ever writes. Hopefully he continues to write more books!

Rochelle March 8, 2016 - 8:40 pm

Hi Joli!
I also truly enjoyed this read! Anthony Doerr took 10 years to write this book and it shows. The amazing details, the careful viewpoint and perspectives of the blind Marie-Laure, and the insane quiet genius of Werner. I swear Doerr must have spent a full six months in just the outline phase of this great book!

So good to connect with another reader! I’ll be good and not inadvertently spoil the story for those who have not yet read “All the Light We Cannot See.”

Lazy Sunday TBR List Roundup - Literary Quicksand February 19, 2017 - 8:26 am

[…] by Anthony Doerr has been on just about all the lists of “must reads” I’ve seen. Joli posted her thoughts on it after reading it for a book club. Finally, The Book Thief has gone motion picture and has […]


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