The book presents two different stories which ultimately intertwined. We read about the life of Marie-Laure, the blind, French girl, and Werner, the German boy, from their childhood to the aftermath of the WWII. The book is splendid and deeply moving, and I don’t believe a short review will illuminate its magnificence. Therefore, I will try to concentrate in two points that I liked most about the book.
The first is the heartwarming description of the bond between the father-daughter ( in Marie-Laure’s case) and the sister-brother ( in Werner’s case). Marie’s father sacrifices everything to assure the happiness and safety of his only child. She is blind and lost her mother and everyone talks about them being cursed, still her father continued looking after her. Not only does he provide her with food and shelter, he was adamant to educate and entertain her. His main concern is her future therefore he built her the miniature of Paris so she memorized her way around the city. And when they moved because of the war, he built another miniature of the new city, which cost him his freedom and eventually his life. I was deeply moved when I read about his letters to his daughter during his time in the Nazi prisons. His love to his daughter exceeds everything, and I don’t think there is a better description than the one Doerr presented in his book.
The love between Werner and his younger sister is similarly moving. Werner looked carefully after his sister and shared everything with her. Even after he left the school, she was always in his mind. He thinks of her all the time, and was always eager to receive her letters. During the war, he saw many miseries, still he didn’t think of himself, he thought of her more. Werner’s sister loved her brother equally. She was worried about him, and his death was the shock that she couldn’t recover from even after her marriage.
Those kinds of bonds are sacred, and Doerr presents them in their most beautiful face. War could destroy everything, but it cannot destroy our love or change those deep-rooted bonds.
The second is how we read about the war from both the victim’s and the soldier’s point of view. Doerr wants to show that the war affects both parties, and as much as the French suffered, the German suffered too. Werner was a child who was brainwashed and thrown into the brutality of the war. He was a German soldier, but underneath his uniform he was just a child who did not want to have anything with the war, all he wanted was to be a scientist. His help to Marie displays his humanity. And even before that how he was haunted with the death of the little girl he saw in the garden. Doerr wants to show that not everyone participates in the war is evil, there are many explanations for that, and Werner is one example. Werner’s friend was also portrayed as strong headed and a good soldier, but when we later read about him we know his real character: like Werner, he was a young boy who is interested in music and the war machine pushed him into the front. Those young boys were all victims like the rest of the war victims.
As its title “All the light we cannot see” helps to see all the truth we cannot see, or choose to ignore. War is not what the war propaganda strives to make us believe. We are all victims of the war, and each one of us carries within him or her the wounds of this war. There is no escape to the inevitable ramifications of this war, but there is an opportunity “to see the light we couldn’t see” before.