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All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

By 08:39:00 , ,

Published: May 2014, Scribner
After two or three days of idly reading 60 pages at a time, I suddenly got so hooked that I had to stay up until 2am to finish it. Like many novels set in World War II, All the Light We Cannot See is touching, thought-provoking, and a bit upsetting at times.

Werner is a German boy who ends up fighting in the second world war when he is only sixteen. Marie-Laure is a blind French girl who escapes Paris with her father to Saint-Malo to live with her uncle Etienne. The events unfold over many years, and the two very different perspectives on the war work extremely well and make the story a strikingly touching account of WWII. One of my favourite things about All the Light is the way it gives you a perspective to both sides, and makes you sympathise with (some of) the Germans as well as the French.

I think this is where it started to really get to me:
"Werner waits for the child to blink. Blink, he thinks, blink blink blink. Already Volkheimer is closing the door, though it won't close all the way because the girl's foot is sticking out of it, and Bernd is covering the woman on the bed with a blanket, and how could Neumann Two not have known, but of course he didn't, because that is how things are with Neumann Two, with everybody in this unit, in this army, in this world, they do as they're told, they get scared, they move about with only themselves in mind. Name me someone who does not." 

This is where I started to feel really anxious for all the characters. This is where I got really emotionally invested in Werner's part in the war, and this is where I decided I couldn't stop reading until I knew what happened to him. So that's how I spent the next 5 or so hours of my Thursday night. And I'm happy I did. By the end I kind of really just wanted to cry about it for a bit.

All the Light We Cannot See is a lovely book, and Marie-Laure LeBlanc and Werner Pfennig are probably going to stay with me for quite a while. I'm more than okay with that.

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