This book destroyed me.
As I neared the end of All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, I couldn’t hold it together; this book is heartbreaking and beautiful. Set during World War II, it centers on two characters, Marie-Laure a girl growing up in Paris, and Werner Pfennig, an child growing up in Germany. Both characters lead lives out of their control: Marie-Laure is blind and relies on her father and others to guide her through life while Werner is orphaned at a young age and will grow up to work in the mines that killed his father or be forced to join the war effort.
Marie-Laure and Werner are both exceptional children who have little else in common. But as the story progresses, the reader travels back and forth in time and begins to understand how their stories are connected in devastating and hopeful ways. Every few pages seems to hold a glimmer of light and crushing sadness all rolled into one. The reader knows this can’t be a happy ending, it’s war and the characters have already lost so much, but you keep going because you just can’t stop.
Doerr writes a powerful story. He packs more information and beauty in one sentence than I could in a whole novel. The story is wonderful and horrible at the same time, but reading it from a writer’s point of view will both encourage you and make you realize how absolutely worthless you are at telling a story.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is an amazing book that will haunt you for a long time. While a work of fiction, it can’t help but make me wonder how many similar stories there were during war (any war) and how many bright lights those conflicts extinguished too early.