Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Audio Book Review: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr book cover and review
All the Light We Cannot See is a meandering, character driven story that is compelling because of its stunning prose.

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
531 pages

Rating: 4.5/5

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  1. I loved this book! I agree, the narrator's voice drew me in instantly!

  2. I have this book on hold in the audio format at the public library. One of my book club friends (actually two) said they didn't care for the book but I want to know what all the fuss is about. i'm glad you liked it in this format. I look forward to taking my turn with it. Are you on summer break already? We still have a few days to go. Sigh.

    1. Yes, May 26 was our last day, so I'm well into summer. Hang in there! I'm sure you'll make it. Hope you get lots of time to read. Thanks for stopping by. Enjoy your summer.

  3. This is one of my favorites, glad you enjoyed the audio book!

  4. I have this one high on my reading list for this summer. This was a candidate for our summer reading assignment for students but the big drawback was that it wasn't available in paperback until December. I'm finally on summer break today so I hope to catch up with my tbr pile. Enjoy your summer!

  5. Great review. This book is on my TBR list, but I probably won’t get to it for a while. I’ve seen so many good reviews that I really want to read it.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

  6. Thanks for your review! I've been interested in this book for a while now and am even more excited to get my hands on it! Happy reading! :)

  7. The first half of the book was, I admit, slow. But it kept me engaged enough that I continued and at about 60% I didn't want to stop reading.
    It's a beautiful book.

    Top rated Horseshoe Bay Real Estate


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