Read Remark Book Review - All the Light We Cannot See

Book Review: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

One-sentence summary:

Maurie-Laure, a blind girl, and Werner, an orphan conscripted into the Nazi party, grow up during the Holocaust in Anthony Doerr’s historical novel.

All the Light We Cannot See gives a micro view of a macro tragedy.

It’s sad. It’s important. It’s engaging.

…It’s a bit of a letdown. Am I supposed to have liked it more than I did?

This book has so many excellent reviews. I feel I’m heartless in not being as moved by it as others obviously are.

The story of Marie-Laure is interesting. Her story is the thread that catches my attention the most, especially when she and her father must leave their lives behind and seek shelter elsewhere. Embarrassing admission: I caught myself daydreaming about other things several times up to that point in the book.

The story of Werner is…I’m conflicted. Am I supposed to feel more sympathy to him? I suppose he is sympathetic up to a point. He doesn’t willingly become a Nazi. But he is complicit in their actions. He helps them. He becomes an actual Nazi doing Nazi work and has many peoples’ blood on his hands, even if he doesn’t pull the trigger.

The book is set up as such a build up. Everything is supposed to be leading up to the meeting of Marie-Laure and Werner. I’m okay with the story not being wrapped up in a happily-ever-after ending. That doesn’t bother me. Heartbreak is fine.

But the delicious and ill-fated buildup to their paths crossing doesn’t exist for the characters. It only exists for the reader. And for that, it feels inauthentic and forced. Their meeting and separation doesn’t mean as much to them as I think it’s supposed to mean for us.

This would have been more impactful if it had just followed Marie-Laure, and showed more of the touching kindness she feels when this unlikely stranger (a stranger to us, just as he is to her) helps her in her most dire moment.

I wanted this story to stab me in the heart. The subject matter deserves it.

Instead, while I was interested in the beautifully-written story, I floated above it. I saw it as an onlooker rather than participant.

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