I just finished All The Light We Cannot See.
I give it 5/5 stars. It is the best book I have read in a really, really long time.
Not only was it a great story, but it really makes you think.
These are my thoughts on the book. If you have not read the book, do not read.
I’m going to answer some book questions that have been posted on the internet. Here goes.
(This is part 1. It ended up being longer than I thought, so next week I will post part 2.)
1. First of all, did you like the book overall? Why or why not? Along with that, did you like Doerr’s style of writing?
I loved this book. It has to be one of the best books that I have read in a long, long time. Not only was the story great, but the writing was elegant, intricate, and splendid. The story made me think. It made me want to simultaneously hurry through it to find out what was going to happen, but also to linger on the beauty of each sentence. Some times superfluous writing can be superbly annoying. That was not the case here.
2. Along with style, how did you feel about the time going back and forth between future and present?
I often find it irritating, here, I found it really moved the story along and gave the reader a chance to absorb everything that was going on, especially in the grander scheme of things.
3. Favorite character?
That’s a tough call. I’m sure this is cheating … I start to say both Werner and Marie-Laure, but truly, Marie-Laure drives the story. It’s Werner that is most complicated and through so many different characters do we get to observe and relish through his eyes. Werner is my favorite. He is all the light that will never be, the light that could have been, the light that had such a chance to make an impact in the world — extinguished too soon.
4. What do you think? Do you agree with Madame? Is doing nothing a kind of troublemaking…as good as collaborating?
This has long been debated about WWII. Were those who stood by, and let Naziism take over, were they just as bad? Were they culpable? There are, of course, varying degrees, but yes, almost as bad. I do believe it snowballed to the point in Germany where it was next to impossible to speak out. Those who did were murdered. Yet, in the beginning, oh how things could have been different.
5. What did you think of the main character being blind? How did this change the story for you?
It makes the reader immediately feel for her. Her light, was of the physical nature. She literally could not see. It’s an important theme of the book.
6. Is it easy or difficult for you to believe in curses and things of that nature? The supernatural, if you will? More specifically, did you believe that if Werner had had the stone at the end, he might’ve been saved?
I did not believe he would be saved. To me, the diamond represented the theme of things we can not see. We don’t know how or why things are connected. We then try to explain things — through myth.
7. Was anyone else annoyed by the conversations that happened at the end of the story???
Yes, I wanted more. With all of the extensive writing and prolonged storytelling, it was unsatisfying to not hear the characters explain more. However, I think, perhaps, it was just a writing technique — to make the reader feel unsatisfied like all the lives were in WWII.
8. What did the title mean to you?
What the title means to me, is everything.
First, it eludes to the fact that there are so many things out there that we cannot see. The story focuses on the radio. We cannot see radiowaves, we cannot see microwaves. There are whole spectrums of light that we cannot see. We can’t see the internet. In some ways, it is magical (like the diamond).
So, yes, at the end of the story, when the author states that perhaps, there are souls moving through the world, can we really say for sure that souls are not? In 1945, could one really imagine the internet? Just because we can’t see something, doesn’t mean that it’s not real.
There are so many things we do not know — so many ways the world is connected …
… like our characters. The world is connected in ways that we cannot understand. Things happen, time moves forward, one thing effects another — we might not be able to see the reason, if there is any, but yet it occurs, regardless of our understanding of it.
So why not a God? Why not our loved ones with us, always?
Maurie-Laure is another example of all the things we cannot see. It’s a theme, like the radiowaves. She is blind — she can’t see anything. The author even states that closing your eyes is still not the same thing as being blind — there is still light to be seen. Werner sees some stuff, in regards to how life is lived, but it is Jutta, and Fredde that really see the way the world works. If there were more of them, people who really saw … perhaps WWII never would have happened.
How we think that we HAVE to do something. We erroneously see/believe that it is necessary. Like WWII. Germany felt they had to do all of those heinous things. They didn’t. Now, hindsight shows just how blindingly wrong they were.
The book is riddled with examples of doing the wrong thing not seeing that it wasn’t a foregone conclusion.
Werner throughout his schooling alongside Fredde, is an example of this.
I also loved the correlation with the physical nature of the concept. Society thought that we could “see” so much with the radio, but there was so much more we could see. First television, then the internet. So much more than just a radio.
Which coincides with how things become obsolete — like the radio.
The radio was everything in WWII. FDR fireside chats next to the radio, information being dispersed by people like real-life Etienne’s. People on the front lines communicating via radio positions, asking for ground support … now? Obsolete.
All that fighting over WWII, for what? Germany is not supreme ruler of the world. However, now it has taken a place next to the US, England, France, and China. All those lives lost. All of it obsolete, unnecessary, and a waste.
Another theme is the metaphysical nature of all the light we cannot see. Light is a flame. To put the flame out is to extinguish it. To make dark. A life is like light, and so many lives were extinguished. The line in regards to Werner … what he could have been. All that light, all those lives, that we will never see. We will never see the light they could have shined on other humans beings through their love, their kindness, their connections. All the light those individuals could have shined on science, on technology, on literature. All gone. All extinguished because a failed society didn’t see what they were doing was wrong.
Until next week! I’ll be back for part 2!
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Madeline Fresco is a novelist who lives in San Diego. She is the author of CROSSED THE LINE, available for Kindle at Amazon.com, for Nook at Barnes & Noble, and as an ePub at other eBook retailers. You can also listen to her novel as a free, serialized audiobook atmadelinefresco.com. Her second book THE CHOICE, is available on Kindle at Amazon. Her third book ANGUISH, is available for Kindle at Amazon.com