All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr

Original book title: All the Light We Cannot See
Author: Anthony Doerr
Publisher: Bookmark Förlag , 599 pages
Language: Swedish
Original language: English
Year of publication:  2015

This is the story of the French girl Marie-Laure and the orphanages boy Werner in the middle of World War II. Marie-Laure has recently become blind and can only interpret the horrors of the war through sounds, smells and touches. Werner dreams of becoming a radio technician, but arrives at a cadet school where he experiences the total brutality of Nazism. When Marie-Laure flies the occupied Paris and Werner is sent on a secret mission, their fate is united.

This is a heartbreaking story of death, war and love, but unfortunately the book didn’t live up to my expectations. There were several aspects that made me not like it as much as I had hoped.

The first was the language. Anthony Doerr writes, in my opinion, complicated sentences with verbs that sometimes feel like forced poetry. It may also be the translation, I read it in Swedish, but it just didn’t work for me. I got stuck and had to re-read some sentence over again, which stopped the pleasant rhythm of reading that is associated with good writings. Anticlimax. When our main characters finally meet, when their fate unites, it goes so fast that I, as a reader, felt cheated.

Then we have the main characters. There are two completely different characters, from two completely different backgrounds that handle what happens around them in different ways. Marie-Laure was inquisitive, strong and stubborn. She did the best she could and it was admirable. Werner was an interesting character but, lacked moral complexity, he is at the heart of Nazism and becomes passive. He knows that what’s happening around him is wrong, but he doesn’t do anything about it. Werner’s sister, Jutta was an interesting character. She had a strong moral complexity and was a strong character; she also acted as Werner’s conscience.

Otherwise, I thought this was a pretty messy story. We have two main characters, but in the middle of all this we also get to know an old Nazi, Von Rumpel, who is looking for a mythical diamond. His chapters are confusing and the only reason his story is included is to move the story forward, but it feels forced and isn’t baked into the story in a good way.

The book is far too long, I would probably have cut a big piece out of the book to get a better flow, but I realize I’m one of the few who actually doesn’t like this book. It has had a big impact throughout the world and is appreciated by many; unfortunately I’m not one of them. However, I think the book is important and gives a different picture of World War II, and I’m glad I read it.


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