Two distinct stories exist side by side during World War II, culminating in an eventual intersection by the end of All the Light We Cannot See (May 2014). Folklore is interwoven throughout by way of a precious stone and the power it possesses.
Werner is a young German soldier groomed for his innate intelligence in radio frequencies and all things mechanical. He narrowly escapes both an almost inevitable life working in the mines and the front lines of the war.
Marie Laure is a blind French girl with a strong penchant for books and learning. She lives with her father, a museum locksmith, when they get the order to flee their Paris apartment. They travel to the seaside town of Saint Malo to live with Marie Laure’s eccentric uncle and his outspoken housekeeper. These two characters become beloved caretakers of Marie Laure after her father is taken prisoner by the Germans.
Present day comprises the end of the war and the stories of Werner and Marie Laure are told primarily in flashbacks. Connections drawn give the reader a sense of precise angles that make up a beautiful whole. The sense of hope and dignity shine consistently and the brutality of war never overshadows these things. Told with a lack of dramatization, each of the main characters endures what they must in order to survive. All the Light We Cannot See is a tribute to the best parts of humanity surviving in spite of the worst conditions and the darkest recesses of evil.
Reviewed by Maria Ryan
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