The story takes place during WWII, and we follow two separate characters that end up crossing paths at a most desperate time for both of them. Marie-Laure lives in Paris with her father who works at the Museum of Natural History. She has been blind since she was six years old. Her father, a master at woodworking, makes her a model of the city to help her learn to navigate it herself. When Paris is invaded, they escape to the walled coastal town of Saint-Malo to take refuge with her father's reclusive uncle. Her father begins construction of a model of Saint-Malo for Marie-Laure. Her father has also brought what may be a priceless artifact from the museum for safekeeping. This diamond has a cursed legend to go with it, and will cause some additional problems for these characters. Marie-Laure's great uncle also has a secret radio that he shows her.
Werner is a German orphan boy who lives in a home for these children with his younger sister. He becomes fascinated with radios and when his expert skills are discovered by the Germans, he is sent to one of Hitler's schools for young boys where they are educated and trained to be everything a Nazi should be. After he leaves the school, his assignment is to seek out resistance fighters who have secret radios. Throughout the entire book, Werner feels guilty about what he is forced to do and the consequences of his actions. But he sees no way out.
The different settings come alive as they are described, as do the characters. Eventually Werner and Marie-Laure's paths cross, but the story isn't over yet. The way the relationships are woven together is fascinating. Doerr does a great job of wrapping up all the different threads, actually ending the story in the present.
As I said, what makes the story is the writing. The audio narrator (Zach Appelman) does an excellent job and has a neutral voice that is easy to listen to. The story is written in the third person without much dialog, so the voice was always the same. I think it takes a lot of skill to narrate a story like this without it becoming monotonous. And this wasn't.
One really picky complaint is that at least three of the main characters' names start with the "V" sound (W in German, I guess.) I'm bad about keeping track of names, so this similarity kept confusing me. There are also changes in time periods, but in big blocks of chapters that are well identified, so it didn't confuse me.
All the Light We Cannot See won't be a book for everyone, but it has great appeal for those who enjoy literary, character-driven, historical novels. Most teens would not fall in this category, but I have a select few who may enjoy this.
Published by Scribner, Simon & Schuster audio, 2014
Audiobook obtained from the library
Back to Annette's Book Spot Homepage Copyright © 2015 Annette's Book Spot. All Rights Reserved