[461]: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

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GOODREADS SUMMARY | Scribner | Hardcover, 531 pages | May 6th, 2014 | Adult Fiction | Historical | Rating 5 out of 5 Stars


Some days, you find yourself in the midst of a wonderful book without ever knowing what it is that made it so. It’s how it made you feel, and what you’ll take away from the reading experience. Oftentimes, this novel made me feel like hopelessness ceases to exist, because if a blind girl can live through and succeed over heartbreaks and war, then nothing is impossible for someone who has full capacities of their senses. All the Light We Cannot See is a story about courage in different forms. Like that of a blind girl who accepted her fate with an unrelenting optimism, and that of a boy who dare dream at a time when the future of his countrymen is in the hands of one ruthless, tyrannical man. It was beautiful, heartbreaking, heartfelt, and hopeful. Truly, a read that would make you feel like everything you deemed hopeless bears no significance in the grand scheme of things.

Her story.

Maurie-Laure succumb to blindness when she was but six years old. This didn’t stop her curious wonder of the world, however. In Paris, where her father worked as a locksmith for the museum, she learnt of the legend of the Sea of Flames: a rare diamond worth at least 100 carats. It is said that whoever find themselves in possession of this diamond, will either live forever or suffer years of bad luck. During the German invasion of France, Maurie-Laure and her father fled Paris to the coastal town of Saint-Malo. A wall, said to be impenetrable, surrounded this town. There, they sought refuge with Etienne Leblanc, Marie-Laure’s great uncle.

In her father’s possession was the legendary Sea of Flames for safekeeping. In order to protect the valuable gem from looting German forces, the museum entrusted her father with what he thought was a replica of the diamond. Weeks after they settled in Saint-Malo, a letter came for him asking him to “travel safely” back to Paris. He never made it there. He was imprisoned, then eventually taken to a camp.

Years later, and on the night before the Germans’ surrender to the allied forces, Marie-Laure will face the man who made it his mission in life to find the missing diamond.

His story.

As an orphan living in a children’s home, Werner have shown incredible intelligence for a boy whose options didn’t really include education. He taught himself; he read, and had been fascinated with transmitter radios. It was during one of those nights when he and his sister discovered the voice of The Professor: a French-speaking narrator who lectured from far-away land. He spoke about Science, and played Debussy’s music. He opened his eyes to the fascinating concept of invisible waves of lights and sounds. It was his fascination that lent him the proficiency to fix things, create things. It was also what would lead him to the door of a German officer that will recruit him to study in a school meant to raise boys into führer’s minions. Here, he will find himself. He will see cruelty unlike anything he’s ever seen, and he will make a connection with a slight boy who’s only fault was knowing what was right; and who’d make him feel ashamed of the man he’ll grow up to be.

Their story.

Often times, I found myself overcome with impatience. I wanted to know how these two stories were tied; I wanted to know when Werner’s and Marie-Laure’s paths would cross. But when it did, I was ashamed to admit that what I was waiting for had been there all along. That I was sorely focused on them being within each other’s reach that I almost missed it. It was only when I was writing this review that it came to me in some sort of epiphany. Their connection transcended the restraints of the physical plane. It started when Werner found his broken radio in the trash. It started when Marie-Laure learnt of a legend that made her question if the myth was real. And for every triumphs, every heartache, and every trauma life had brought them, they will always be connected in one way or the other. 

There was no romance, but there is something much more romantic than a couple of kids finding their way to each other. It’s so hard to explain why I feel the way I feel about their stories. Sometimes, I think that you need not explain yourself. That the important thing is how someone’s invented story could feel as real as the stories contained in history books. You can’t top that kind of realism.