May 15
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"All The Light We Cannot See" Review

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is a brilliantly crafted novel featuring two children who live separate lives in France and Nazi Germany during the second world war. The story weaves its way through time and space to illustrate their struggles, hardships, and the collection of moments that lead the pair’s paths to cross.  Marie-Laure is a blind French girl who explores the streets of her neighborhood with her hands, running them across a model her father built for her. Marie-Laure’s father is her world, and her universe is the intricate city streets carved into blocks of wood. Werner is an orphan with an uncanny talent for building radios, and it isn’t long until the Nazis take notice of his prodigious engineering skills, and sweep him away from the orphanage he’s called home for all his life to make use of his special abilities.

Throughout All The Light We Cannot See, both Werner and Marie-Laure struggle in their own ways through the atrocities of World War Two. Marie-Laure helps with the resistance, trying to avoid a morbid curse. Werner assists the Nazis as they hunt resistance fighters all over Europe, emotionally contending with the jobs he’s assigned to do. As the book progresses, the reader is carried on a suspenseful and miraculous journey through war-ridden Europe, discovering both the devastation and untold stories the German occupation left in their wake, the remnants of a broken society built and destroyed in every few chapters, thus leaving the reader eager for more. Anthony Doerr’s beautiful words and spellbinding metaphors will surely captivate any reader, sucking them into a vortex of enthralling, unique stories laced together with sensational and eloquent writing. Between the characters’ unusual stories and the engrossing writing, All The Light We Cannot See is an incredibly fascinating read to say the least, with a theme of appreciating the miracles in everyday life.

    After reading All The Light We Cannot See , a reader will find themselves being amazed at simple, everyday things they would usually overlook, such as listening to the radio.This is because one of the themes embedded in the pages of All The Light We Cannot See is the appreciation of small miracles. In the novel, Werner and Marie-Laure share the common tie of listening to (and for Werner, building) radios. When Werner is a child, he often listens to an illegal radio broadcast of a man speaking in a soothing voice to children about science, physics, and life. In one broadcast, the radio man speaks of the overlooked miracles in life, and says: “So how, children, does the brain, which lives without a spark of light, built for us a world full of light?” Humans don’t often think about the inexplicably amazing, radiant world built for them by something that doesn’t use any light. If you take a moment, and think about it, it’s amazing. Right now, you’re reading a book review, and your brain is spinning its gears and cogs to illuminate your world, and make the paper legible for you, and working still to help you comprehend each word. Each letter we read, every sight we see, and every spark of light is an underappreciated miracle.  But, so much of light is invisible; the electromagnetic spectrum goes to zero in one direction (the light we can see) and goes all the way to infinity in the other direction. So isn’t most light invisible? Isn’t most of our world hidden from the naked eye? One would argue no to this, that humans still use and perceive invisible light. For example, in radios, we hear the light we cannot see. Werner hears Marie-Laure’s voice from thousands of miles away on a radio transmitter, an intangible thread of invisible light tying them unknowingly together. Doerr writes: “Radio: it ties a million ears to a single mouth”. The light of radio waves is a particularly special aspect of invisible light in the novel, because of how it unifies people, and because the main character, Marie Laure, is blind. She cannot see the light everyone else can; she experiences light in other ways, such as listening to the radio. Invisible light is the only kind she has in her world, inconspicuous sparks of light illuminating the darkness she lives in. Imagine living only in the light you cannot see...the light you overlook and ignore everyday becoming the only light in your world.     

     The light we cannot see is all around us; we hear it blare through the radio at the flick of a switch, we feel it against our skin when the sun comes out on a summer day. This powerful, mesmerizing novel will delineate for any reader just how miraculous living in that light can be if they are willing to open their eyes and minds to the everyday miracles invisible light bestows. Light hides in untold stories, the soft voices behind them, in the gravity that holds us to the ground. It hides in candles with small, flickering flames and in blazing fires emanating a glow of celestial heat on a snowy day. It hides in the ashes of the past, as well as the dusty, forgotten corners of the present. We all live in a world of light; a world of light we cannot see.

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