There are books out there that are so good they inspire me as a writer. I could do this, I think. If I work really really hard, I could do this. And there are some books that are so SO good they’re depressing. Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See fits soundly into the latter category.
Marie-Laure, a young blind girl, is living in Paris when World War II starts and the Nazis invade her hometown. She and her father flee in search of safety, but he has a secret that may jeopardize their already uncertain future. Intertwined with Marie-Laure’s narrative is the story of Werner, a young German boy with a gift for fixing radios – a gift that lands him a place at an academy for Hitler Youth. As the war rages around them, Werner and Marie-Laure’s lives weave together unexpectedly.
Knowing nothing other than the book was about WWII (and winning about every award out there), I put it off for months. I have a hard time consuming anything to do with that war and its nonsensical hate. I didn’t think I could stomach a 530-page book about the Holocaust. But Doerr finds light in the darkest of places. Yes, there are moments of breathtaking sadness and learning about the Hitler Youth was emotional and disturbing. But the book is grounded in the characters who stole my heart. They are resilient and good in a time where the world needed that most.
All the Light We Cannot See is heart-wrenching, suspenseful, and ultimately, beautiful.