Our most recent unit in Humanities 10 has been the study of World War Two. Over spring break, we were given the choice to read one of three books. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, and All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I did a bit of research on each of the titles and found out that Anthony Doerr had decided to write a novel that would switch perpectives with each chapter, a style of reading I’ve enjoyed in the past. So understandably I chose All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Once we had begun our books we would meet up for about ten minutes once a week and discuss our thoughts and feelings about the book with our other classmates who were reading it, a book club if you will.
The next step to this novel study was to prepare enough notes and generate your own opinion towards the book in order to write a professional (ish) style book review upon completion. Before we would write our own, we looked at some examples about a previous book we read as a class, Little Brother by Corey Doctorow.
Anyways, moving onto my review. I really like the idea of getting the opportunity to express your honest opinion, something I can sometimes hold back in class and in the outside world.
Review of Anthony Doerr’s, All The Light We Cannot See
By Kate Rogers
One of the main characters in Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See, is blind. This however does not stop the reader from seeing, imagining, and gaining an understanding of what World War Two was like. Doerr has also written other books such as, The Shell Collector, and Memory Wall, both of which have hardly received any recognition compared to this eye opening novel. Throughout the book we are following two main characters, Marie-Laure is a young blind girl who grew up in Paris, France, and Werner Pfennig is a boy who grows up in an orphanage with his sister, Jutta, located in Zollverein, Germany. With each chapter of the book, the perspective switches from one character, and back to the other, giving us great detail of each adventure the characters experience as the war years pass. As you continue reading you’ll come across multiple new people who will affect Marie-Laure or Werner in at least one way. Marie-Laure will meet Madame Manec, her great uncle’s maid, who gives her strength and a purpose, and while Werner spends his time in the Hitler Youth program he will encounter his best friend Fredrick, who teaches him the importance of resilience and loyalty. These two characters grow up in very different environments, and experience very different things which shape them into who they are. The brilliant thing about All The Light We Cannot See is not the drastic differences that Doerr is able to capture, it’s
how he’s created an extremely compelling story of how the war has affected them and their surroundings, and even bring them together.
With most books we’re able to follow along with the characters using all five of our senses, but what Anthony Doerr has done is remove our sight for half of the book. Without their most reliable sense, the reader is forced to fully engage with the words, with the imagery that the author has chosen. This is an aspect I can sometimes find hard to accomplish with other novels. Simply due to the fact that we can “see” what’s going on. My favourite example of imagery that Anthony Doerr exhibited is shown in chapter 17; “Her father radiates a thousand colors, opal, strawberry red, deep russet, wild green; a smell like oil and metal, the feel of a lock tumbler sliding home, the sound of his key rings chiming as he walks.” He’s made us see and experience a time that most people nowadays have not been through, all through someone who’s had what we consider a right, stolen from her.
This half of the book alone would have been challenging enough, but he’s found a way to seamlessly tie in the two stories by relating similar emotions, thoughts, and of course the experiences between Marie-Laurie and Werner. This is all brought together by one underlying story that was mentioned right at the beginning of the book. Throughout the story we’re following a storyline that stars a mineralogist named, Von Rumpel. He is set on a mission where he is determined to find “The Sea of Flames,” which we learn was held by Marie-Laure’s father, but he too his fighting his own battles. The perspective of Von Rumpel feels like a very useless and fairly boring addition to the story at first, but this brings the two characters together when it’s needed most.
All in all this book is a fantastic read. Although it can be extremely confusing at times due to all of the perspectives that are circling in and out of the story, it has a lot of excellent views, lessons, and gives the generations who weren’t a part of the Second World War a chance to get a further understanding of what it was truly like, some with sight, and some without.