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Publisher: Simon and Schuster
"From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, a stunningly ambitious and beautiful novel about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II. Marie Laure lives with her father in Paris within walking distance of the Museum of Natural History where he works as the master of the locks (there are thousands of locks in the museum). When she is six, she goes blind, and her father builds her a mode...
I didn't hate this book, which was strange because I found problems with it. It was long but enjoyable and I don't regret reading it. But my feelings are mixed and I can't help but point out the things that made this read only 3.5 stars on five.
So let's start with what blew me away before we get into the things that bugged me. The message was given to us at the end of the novel, or what I interpreted it as was that people can and will have an effect on others. Even after they are separated by countries, wars, and generations. Even if they never meet. Something someone says or does can travel a long way and impact someone else's like, connecting with people in ways they can never imagine, even after their death. That is the beauty of All the Light We Cannot See, and why you should read his book.
Now what bugged me besides the beautiful message:
First, it's extremely long and the pages could have been used so much better. Anthony Doerr did an outstanding job at developing the leads, Marie-Laure and Werner, and some of their supporting characters. But the problem was that he only developed some! Many characters just seemed to just disappear after the first 100 or so pages, becoming nothing but a name. Like Jutta. By the end of the book, she was someone from a memory who I didn't care for enough to care for the ending. Also, Jutta was the only character I felt any connection too, and I promptly lost attachment to the book when she disappeared, becoming nothing more than a name on a letter we never see again until the end.
Also, as someone who likes old French authors and J.R.R. Tolkien, it seemed like there were way too many pages for the small amounts of description. I wanted so much more than what I was given. The description was or at least felt like, it was one or two words in a phrase on a page, giving me the faintest ideas for the world. Sure, its the world that I live in, but I've never been to Paris before. Or France. I've seen Heidelberg Germany and the Frankfurt Airport, but only the touristy areas like castles and palaces. I can't imagine actuary what everything looks like, especially in the 1940s. I often found myself imagining that it looked like the sceneries from the Harry Potter films or The Book Thief and I have no idea how accurate my imagery is.
Also, it flipped between time and perspectives randomly and often. The book started near the end in 1944, and then the next about 200 pages were in 1940, so long that I had almost forgotten what had happened in the prologue. Now, this did keep me interested throughout the story, as I wanted to know how it got to that point and whatnot, but a good story shouldn't have to leave cliffhangers for every time and character to keep the reader hooked.
Then for the character perspective change. I enjoyed reading about the different characters, but the chapters were so short and the characters not even being in the same country mad it hard to follow. As soon as I got wrapped up in Marie-Laure's story I was thrust into Werner's or von Rumpel's. And von Rumpel's seemed totally unnecessary, just as the gem was. It was interesting in the beginning, but gave no lift to the story and lost its "wow" factor after the first couple hundred pages. In all this left me unattached to characters, at the end, when a (SPOILER) character bites the dust I felt little emotion. I was like "Okay, well that happened. Too bad. Not what I was expecting."
And finally, I wish the main characters had met up sooner. It felt like the whole plot of the book was building up to these character meeting, which they didn't happen soon enough nor in a satisfying way. I guess like I said at the beginning, I feel like the moral of the story is about how two people with no similarities who barely meet can have an impact on each other. And that is the beauty of All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. If I can look past all these flaws and see the light in this novel, then you can too!
Bookaxe Characteristics for All the Light We Cannot See