Truth be told, the only reason I read All The Light We Cannot See is because it won the Pulitzer price and has topped best seller lists across the nation for weeks. The main characters here were Werner, an orphan whose knack for machines allowed him to find recognition as a Nazi youth, and Marie-Laure a young and trustful blind girl hiding with her father in the French countryside. Both were enjoyable to read about, although Werner quickly became my favorite. Still, I had a hard time with the layout. The omnipresent narration changed every few pages and bounced between an array of characters, then switched back and forth to different years. That wasn’t essential to the plot and certainly didn’t make this a better story.
Werner was the standout character here. While he transitioned from a young wild orphan to a methodical Nazi radio operator, he wrestled against his own morals, the evil of other cadets, and the Nazi’s reign of terror. His struggles were absolutely fascinating given that his lack of parental influence showcased his innate feelings toward humanity. In comparison, Marie-Laure didn’t shine and her story only became interesting to me after her family began scheming with other French townspeople to craft a resistance strategy. Other characters included the stock WWII personalities, the domineering Nazi officer, the scared Frenchwoman, the mean school kids, etc.
In my opinion, books don’t need to be long to be good. At more than 500 pages the novel’s length was already daunting. The story as a whole was good, but there were portions that just felt unnecessary until I realized that an action early on had a ripple effect. In that sense, the author tied these people’s lives together very well. As for the writing, it conjured beautiful images and seared into the hearts of the characters, but there was something formal and academic about it that felt slightly cold.
Overall, this was a good read.