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Friday, February 19, 2016

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

BOOK review
Started on: 22.December.2015
Finished on: 5.February.2016

Title : All the Light We Cannot See
Author : Anthony Doerr
Publisher : Fourth Estate
Pages :  531 pages / 426 pages (e-book)
Year of Publication : 2014
Price : Rp 194,000 (

Rating: 4/5
"When I lost my sight, Werner, people said I was brave. When my father left, people said I was brave. But it is not bravery; I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don't you do the same?"
Marie-Laure LeBlanc lives with her father who works as a locksmith for the Museum of National History in Paris. She gradually became blind at the age of six, and so her father built her a model of their neighborhood to help her memorize the streets. While in Germany, an orphan boy named Werner Pfennig lives in the Children's Home with his sister, Jutta, and other children. The two discovered a broken radio that Werner managed to fix and they secretly listened to a broadcast from France. When the Germans occupied Paris in 1940, Marie-Laure and her father fled to Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure's great-uncle lives. Werner was recruited into a training school for Nazi military due to his amazing talent in mechanics. Little did they know, despite their distance and differences, fate will bring them together and change each others' lives.

"You know the greatest lesson of history? It’s that history is whatever the victors say it is. That’s the lesson. Whoever wins, that’s who decides the history. We act in our own self-interest. Of course we do. Name me a person or a nation who does not. The trick is figuring out where your interests are."
On the way to Saint-Malo, Marie-Laure have absolutely no idea that her father has an extremely valuable jewel in his possession. The priceless blue diamond, called the Sea of Flames, is rumored to be cursed. The person who has the Sea of Flames cannot die, however, misfortunes will fall upon their loved ones. To protect the precious jewel, three exact copies were made. Marie-Laure's father never knows whether the one he possessed is actually real or one of the copies. But one day, someone will be looking for it, someone who's in desperate need of the jewel to save his life. And in the end, not everyone can survive.
"How do you ever know for certain that you are doing the right thing?"
image source: here. edited by me.
To be honest, I started reading this book with an extremely high expectation because I've heard only good things about it. So I was a bit taken aback when I discovered that this book started in a very slow pace and it took me a while to get into the story. In fact, it took me a little bit more than a month to finish reading this book—which is quite absurd because it took me less time to finish A Clash of Kings, and that book is double the size of this one. I'm not complaining about the writing though, because as I've heard, it is indeed very beautifully written. I even find it poetic at times.

The story that took place during World War II is told from various perspectives and it always jumps from one time period to another. It can get confusing at times, especially in the beginning when I still couldn't grasp the situation that's happening to our two main characters, Marie-Laure and Werner, but I get used to it after a while. I expected the book to talk about specific historical events that happened back then; however, it turns out the story explored more about the characters and what they had to go through during World War II. Marie-Laure who escaped with her father and had to struggle with her blindness; and Werner who's stuck in a cruel place even when his conscience bugged him. Unlike other historical fiction books that I've read, I wasn't really emotionally involved in the story, but I had to admit that this book made me think a lot. Marie-Laure's courage and Werner's bravery to do what he think or feel is right has successfully touched my heart. The ending portrays how nothing good ever comes out of war; only heartache and misery. But I'm grateful that some of the characters managed to move on with life and let go of the past.
"To men like that, time was a surfeit, a barrel they watched slowly drain. When really, he thinks, it’s a glowing puddle you carry in your hands; you should spend all your energy protecting it. Fighting for it. Working so hard not to spill one single drop."
"If only life were like a Jules Verne novel, thinks Marie-Laure, and you could page ahead when you most needed to, and learn what would happen."
As I've said earlier, the main focus of the story is the characters. The first one that I'll be talking about is Marie-Laure; a blind girl who loves to read. I already liked her ever since her father teaches her to memorize the streets. Even though it took years for her to finally be able to do it, she doesn't give up easily and that requires courage. And that incredible courage is shown yet again towards the end of the story, when Marie-Laure decided to do something that will put her life at stake. I won't spoil anything further than that of course, but I just admire her character so much ♥. I also love Marie-Laure's great uncle, Etienne LeBlanc. In the beginning he was described as a man who's been traumatized by war and is afraid to even leave his house. But as the story continues and his relationship with Marie-Laure grows deeper, Etienne starts to regain his long-lost courage. That's why it's very heartwarming when Etienne did something extremely brave, just for the sake of Marie-Laure :'))

Now let's talk about the other main character, Werner; who's a bit more complicated than Marie-Laure because he's faced with a lot of dilemmas. Since he was young, Werner dreaded the idea of being sent to work in a coal mine. So when he was drafted into military for his amazing talent in mechanics, he sees it as a miracle. Only then he came to find out that being in the military has its own horrors and misery. What makes me sad the most is what happened to Werner's friend, Frederick :(( Frederick is such an honorable character; but we all know that things won't go well for those who went against the higher orders during the World War II era. In the end, I'm just glad that Werner's final act shows how he finally followed his conscience—doing what he feels is right, even when it means he's defying his duties.
"Because of the diamond in your coat pocket. Because I left it here to protect you. All it has done is put me in more danger. Then why hasn’t the house been hit? Why hasn’t it caught fire? It’s a rock, Papa. A pebble. There is only luck, bad or good. Chance and physics. Remember? You are alive. I am only alive because I have not yet died."
There are of course more characters that are involved in the story, and they're not less interesting than the ones that I mentioned in this review. But of course I won't spoil everything for those who haven't read the book. Despite my disappointments because the book doesn't fully fulfill my expectations, I still enjoyed this beautifully-written book. I especially love the chapters towards the end when everything starts coming together and finally made sense. In the end, this story taught me a lot about how a small act of courage and kindness can change a person's life. Seeing a glimpse of humanity amidst all the cruelty of war in this book is extremely heartwarming and uplifting :')
“Is it right,” Jutta says, “to do something only because everyone else is doing it?”

For those of you who're interested to know more about the book, here's a video of an interview with Anthony Doerr :))


by.stefaniesugia♥ .


  1. Aku suka si bapaknya yang terampil banget bikin miniatur kota buat anaknyaaa..

  2. I haven't read this book, but I've heard a lot of amazing things about this! Can't wait to read this, great review!

    Tasya // The Literary Huntress


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