All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

“Don’t you want to be alive before you die?”

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  All the Light We Cannot See is a historical/literary fiction book set in France and Germany during WWII. It follows two characters : Marie-Laure a French blind girl living in Paris then in St Malo during the war and Werner a sixteen years old German soldier who has to find radio transmissions made by the French Resistance.

This book is fairly well known and won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2015. It was the first time I read a Pulizter winner since I usually tend to be more interested by Man Booker’s winner and shortlist.

I was really interested in this book because I liked the idea of a book set in French written by a non-French author since I always find it interesting to see the ways culture and events may be seen from a foreign point of view.

However, I found myself a lot more interested by Werner’s chapters than Marie-Laure’s because they allowed me to learn a lot about German propaganda and how much education can influence minds. Marie-Laure’s chapters were not bad, it was just than being French and a Parisian mean that I already knew the majority of what happened in France. Also WWII being such an important event means that we had a lot of lectures on it in middleschool and in highschool and so I find her chapters a little redundant of those. For Werner, I also already knew about propaganda and stuff but reading about it made it seems more real in my eyes.  Still, what I found the more interesting wasn’t really his life but more his thoughts about the things he has to do to protect his family and his friends.

“Your problem, Werner,” says Frederick, “is that you still believe you own your life.”

As for the writing style, I have to say that I did not find to be as amazing as everyone seems to think. Some quotes were really beautiful but some paragraphs were a little bit choppy because of the extremely short sentences. The structure of this book was peculiar because the book was divided in very long chapters (or parts) made of very tiny scenes that switch from character to character. Some scenes were less than a page and the longest was six pages long. At first, it was disconcerting but after a while, I got used to it.

Overall, I enjoyed this and I am glad to have read it. The characters were well fleshed out and they were a great way to try to imagine what living in this time could have been like for the common inhabitants. It also allowed me to have interesting discussions about WWII with my parents. Also, nw my mother wants to read it so it’s pretty cool 🙂

“You know the greatest lesson of history? It’s that history is whatever the victors say it is. That’s the lesson. Whoever wins, that’s who decides the history. We act in our own self-interest. Of course we do. Name me a person or a nation who does not. The trick is figuring out where your interests are.”

I would recommend this if you are interested by this period of history or if you want to start reading literary fiction because this was probably the easiest books that I’ve read in this genre in terms of difficulty of language.

★★★1/2

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