Commuter Reads: All The Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr

[possible spoilers]

“Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.”

With the winners of the Pulitzer prize having been unveiled this week, it seems only appropriate that I post my review of last year’s Fiction winner, Anthony Doerr’s All The Light We Cannot See.

This book is completely mesmerising, captivating and beautiful.

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Being an historical fiction, it feels like more than just your average easy-going read. It has so much substance and is simultaneously on a macro level of the second World War and a micro level of specific people’s very individual lives.

Although I love reading and being part of the lives and emotions of characters in books, rarely do I feel like I’m experiencing those emotions too; I felt like I could have cried several times in this book, either from despair, beauty, hope or loss. And anyone who knows me, knows crying is not something I give in to easily!

By far my favourite character in this book is Marie-Laure.

Blind from the age of six, the way she sees the world is more vivid and vibrant and beautiful than anyone with their sight fully intact.

So how, children, does the brain, which lives without a spark of light, build for us a world full of light?

Through her, you experience the world through the heightened versions of her other senses: sound, touch, taste, and smell. The deafening sensory experience of war in France is separated and felt and experienced by Marie-Laure, one exquisite and beautifully described sensation at a time.

Her all too brief overlap of her life story with the other young protagonist, Werner, leaves you begging for more interaction and more storyline between them. But the briefness of their encounter and the fleeting, but lasting, impact they have on each others lives speaks of the war and the way it touched so many across so many countries in a similar way, in a similar place, but only for a second.

“Don’t you want to be alive before you die?”

Regardless of sides or political allegiance, the book says more about human nature and the beauty in the ways we can choose to treat each other, even in the midst of something as ugly as war.

This book should not be picked up to read lightly, but it is a beautiful piece that you need to give yourself time to enjoy. I can recommend it to everyone.

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