radio wires and seashells | all the light we cannot see by anthony doerr

by - 10:03 PM

Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.

From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the stunningly beautiful instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them, they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.


In a mining town in Germany, Werner Pfennig, an orphan, grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they have never seen or imagined. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments and is enlisted to use his talent to track down the resistance. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.

isbn: 978-1501132872 | pages: 530
publication date: May 6, 2014 | source: own
genre: historical fiction
beauty in the simplicity 
All the Light We Cannot See is a story that is timeless in both its delivery and its structure. The writing isn't extravagant or lyrical, but it somehow manages to capture the everyday lives of all the characters. The writing style manages to act like a camera by capturing snapshots of both the familiar routines and unfamiliar interruptions from the war, providing a sense of nostalgic reflection that permeates the reading experience. 

It's definitely not a fast read, but it feels incredibly personal and that gives the story its own unique intrigue. I ended up staying up until one in the morning because I got so emotionally invested in what was going on that I couldn't risk putting the story down. 

the myths and the reality
The museum's most valuable jewel is this mythical stone called the Sea of Flames - fabled to give the owner immortal life at the cost of those around them. I loved how the mysticism around the jewel didn't overpower the story but posed to be a supporting element that drove the plot forward. The Sea of Flames is both an item that offers hope as well as a lot of frustration and panic. It almost helped to shine a spotlight on the different sides of human nature, particularly greed and selflessness - effectively demonstrating that while war brings out the worst in people, there are also acts of honor and love that should be remembered.

the story of human lives
Throughout the novel, we primarily follow Marie-Laure and Werner's lives as children growing up in the backdrop of war. Their individual timelines are so fascinating to read about with Marie-Laure's highlighting the beautiful bonds of family and finding wonder in the world around you and with Werner as a talented youth drafted to work for Hitler's conquest. I love both of them so much because their characters allow readers to see the effects of World War II on the loss of youth through a different perspective that focuses on an early maturity rather than a destruction of innocence.

My personal favorite takeaway from this overall is the resounding message of finding the beauty in the world despite the current circumstances - a fitting theme in light of what's going on globally. There is something precious about the everyday experience that deserves to be appreciated and treasured because no matter how repetitive it may seem, there is always something unique that happens.

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2 Comments

  1. I absolutely loved this book! It's one of my all time favorites. :) I disagree with what you said about the writing style: to me, it is lyrical and poignant, a kind of writing that I see not many authors can achieve. The story is brilliant and I feel like it can be a movie one day. I love your personal takeaway from the book, I do agree with that and think that the theme of the novel is something to remember in the long run :)

    jillian @ jillian etc.

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    1. Oh my gosh, if this was a made into a movie I would be so excited! That's super interesting about the writing style - I guess I was really focused on the structure (?) of the writing, with the shorter sentences but I can definitely see where you're coming from. It's super cool how the writing style can have different interpretations from its readers. But beside that, I literally can't stop thinking about this book!! :D

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