I’ve just finished reading ‘All the Light we cannot see’ and I’m speechless. I don’t know how to describe it in a few words. It’s definitely the best book I’ve read this year. There’s no doubt about it. It’s beautiful, relentless, crashing like the ocean that surrounds Saint Malo. By the end of it, we’ve had such a deep insight into Marie-Laurie and Werner’s lives that I feel like I know them inside out and they’ll definitely stay with me long after I’ve read other things and got on with my life. This book changed my perception of the war (and I did A-level history) and whenever I think of World War Two, I’ll think of this. For me, the minor characters really provided the story with an amazing and rich backdrop. Frederick was definitely my favourite but I loved how Volkheimer loved music and they were all connected by their love of something as well as the physical radios themselves. It showed that even in the worst of times, love cannot be crushed and the human spirit lives on.
Apparently, I’ve been to Saint Malo, not that I remember it but it provided an amazing and beautiful for such a wonderful story to take place. Paris was the other place that had been researched down the most minute detail and I think that really got the reader entrenched in the story. Doer writes through a kaleidoscope; one look and you see a scene that is a maze of colour and light and is rich in wonder and spectacle, even with the darkest and coldest moments in the story. And his knowledge is endless; of diamonds, radios, light, shells, war, France and Germany and their cultures, food and history.
I read somewhere that the title is a reference to all the untold children’s stories during the war and how is there so much we don’t know and don’t see and Marie-Laure and Werner are only 2 people on a huge spectrum of untold stories. I also think (this is just my interpretation by the way) that is it a reference to all the love that stretches out like tentacles during the war and epitomises what is says on the blurb ‘that against all the odds, people try and be good to one another.’
I’ve tried to make this as spoiler free as possible. Everyone should read this. It will haunt you like it’s going to haunt me now I’ve finished it. It was so chilling, bittersweet and took my breath away when I’ve finished. There are no war stories like this. You will feel like you’ve seen every horror of war from madness and panic of the German coming to take Paris in 1940 and everyone fleeing to nowhere to the crushing hopelessness of the Russian’s arriving in Berlin in 1945 and all the women knowing their time has come. I know I’m going to sleep tonight thinking of corpses on trains, Paris in the spring and the smell of smoke in Saint Malo as it burns. When you read, which you should, you’ll understand.
I hope you enjoyed my review and let me know if you’ve read it in the comments.