2015 Pulitzer-winning Antony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See begins with a blind girl and her father living in Paris at the start of World War II. Marie-Laure is only six years old when her sight is blinded by cataracts, and it is her museum locksmith father who restores her confidence by encouraging Braille lessons and by building a miniature wooden replica of the city, so she can navigate by touch memory. When the war breaks out, Marie-Laure and her father immediately seek refuge in Saint Malo at her great uncle Etienne’s mansion. Carrying with them is the Sea of Flames, an accursed rare blue diamond that her father is obligated to protect from the museum. The diamond allegedly endows its keeper with eternal life and curses all he loves with never-ending misfortune. The materialistic burden heightens the emotional urgency to turn each page for the reassurance of their safe escape.
When they arrive at the house, the father promptly creates a mini wooden replica of Etienne’s house for Marie-Laure and hides the Sea of Flames in it to keep safely away from the Nazis. Meanwhile an aspiring German soldier boy named Werner discovers his prodigal talent to engineer and build radios, which holds the key to his future. As his exceptional skills promote him in war zones, he finds himself hunting down France with the Nazis to find the hidden diamond. Predictably, he crosses path with Marie-Laure, but little do we know how their lives changes forever.
Though much of the plot reflects modern-day thrill and dark adventures (may I dare say, sort of like The DaVinci Code), the WWII theme makes All the Light a more serious piece of literature. Doerr’s writing style is not the easiest to follow; he writes in staccato sentences that are quick to reach climatic moments but require 150% attention and focus. Also to note, when the story starts Marie-Laure is 6 years old; by the last chapter, she’s 86. I don’t completely agree that Doerr’s writing is Pulitzer-worthy but his idea and imagination deserve a standing ovation for creativity.
dee’s recommendation: 3.5/5