Books · Reviews

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

“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?”

When I first start to hear the buzz of the book, how there are a lot of people who love the book and give good reviews, I expect the same thing. It turns out All The Light We Cannot See is more than what I expecting. I can say that this book is marvelous, brilliant thought it is heartbreaking and rich of irony.

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This is a story of children whom their childhood is ruined by the World War II. Werner, a Germany, genius, engineer-mind orphan that forced by circumstances to be a Nazi Germany. Marie, a girl who goes blind and have to be a “refugee” and leave their lovely house behind, lost her father, lost her lovely madame. Jutta who never separated with her brother lost her brother at the moment her brother leaves her at the orphanage. She never knew it was the last time she saw him. The cruelty of WW 2 made them “being adult” before they are old. The story will show you their life in a somewhat mixed timeline. On their childhood, adolescent, teenager, adulthood. Before the war, on the war, after the war.

I need to break it into several pieces to explain why I love this book so much.

First, the depth characters in the novel. I always love the novel which the character not only unique but hold a strong value. I love how Werner, who is a genius, passionate and keep going on even though his teacher had reminded him that it’s not the right time for the smart mind like he was. He is a genius with a heart. Which rarely found. Look at how he’s still thinking about Jutta, Fred, even Volkheimer. This is why I love Werner because he’s still “human” in the middle of the moral crisis that he faced.

As for Marie, I love her pure heart. Got blind at the very young age, she feels the transitions which I think it must be really hard for her. She used to know how building, clouds, shrimps look like. She needs to accept the fact that now her world, that used to be vibrant, colorful, beautiful now is gray, nothing more. Yet she managed herself to be brave, to be tough, to be able to do anything by herself. It’s not explained in the story how she reacts toward other people, but as being said in the book that there are a lot of people who love her, it could be said that she has a generous heart. People do not pity her because she’s blind, people love her for the real her. And she’s smart, very smart.

Jutta is also the same. Her soft heart is the one that made Werner always outweigh the morality of his action or moral of others. She’s smart, at the end she became a mathematic teacher and had a curious child is a proof enough. I love them all.

Second, it is about the structure. You need to know that this novel structure is peculiar, in a good way. Each chapter, the focus changed. You need to read it to see how unique the structure of this book is.

Third, the story of course. It was exciting, yet depressing. There was a part when Jutta and Werner in their childhood listening to unknown broadcasting on the radio about the lesson for children (That actually being broadcasted by Marie’s grandfather). Then it comes to the time in their adolescence when Werner should go to German prep school, with the swastika, bullying, and Nazi’s doctrine. The story of Marie’s uncle that able to cope his phobia for Marie’s sake. The better life after the war for everyone, except Werner. Oh my, I still wish that Werner just able to survive to get a happy ending too.

I think, how Werner ended up like that is happened because of so many factors. The fact that he’s unable to see Marie is just the top point of point, but before that, there are a lot of factors. His regret and grieve for Frederick. If only he helped Frederick, if only he’s always beside him, if only he’s able to convey his concern properly at the last of their conversation, Frederic may be safe. The fact that he’s unable to send Jutta regular letter, the regret that he does not believe in Jutta earlier about just doing what other people doing. His parents, Werner still remember about his parents sometimes, and all of these strikes of emotion may trigger him to remember about his parents that cause to depression. And a lot of the things I couldn’t imagine.

Fourth, the writing. It is definitely beautifully written. A lot of gorgeous and marvelous passages, even though there is some phrase in France and German that I hardly understand, but the detailed description about the place and portrayal of events in the story could compensate that. Not only the beauty that we can see, as for how Werner see when he first arrived in Saint-Malo, but also the senses that we cannot see, as for how Marie describes.

And now, guess what? I’m fernweh for Saint-Malo.



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