Book review: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr 

‘All the Light We Cannot See’ by Anthony Doerr was for me, a difficult read.

I knew I was going to struggle with this book right from the start due to the structure of the novel. Doerr writes in extremely small chapters, each averaging between one to two pages. Each chapter also focuses on our two main characters, going from Marie-Laure, to Werner and back again. This meant that not only did the plot go slowly, but that it was easy to lose interest in the characters. Every time something interesting happened to Marie-Laure, the book would go back to Werner again and vice versa.

Furthermore, there was nothing to seperate this book from many other WWII historical fictions, such as ‘The Book Thief’ by Markus Zusak. I feel as though Doerr at least made an attempt for it to be unique by introducing the subplot of a magic stone, held by Marie-Laure and wanted by Nazi soilders. However, to me it made little sense to include the stone and it took away any sense of realism from the main plot.

Despite this, the main reason I just couldn’t enjoy this novel, was due to how heavily this text seemed to rely on supposed metaphors and symbols, such as the stone. It was nothing but a collection of pretty, short sentences that were all surface and no substance.

Doerr seemed to be trying far too hard to create some kind of masterpiece and just fell short of pulling it off. ‘All the Light We Cannot See’ is a lighter read and aimed at a younger audience, so perhaps it cannot be compared, but works such as ‘Siddartha’ by Hermann Hesse go to show a book can be beautifully written and filled with meaning, yet Doerr’s story seemed half-finished. It lacked any real emotion to me and after reading what happens at the end, I found it all too predictable; it was as though the whole novel was wrote simply to make us cry.


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