From the very beginning this novel drew me into its pages, creating a world so heartwrenchingly honest that it was easy to believe that it could’ve been true and at times I actually questioned it. The heartbreaking story of Werner through his childhood, going to a military school where he thinks he can better himself and only discovering what life is about once he’s there and can’t leave, was very powerful. I’m sure we all studied World War II in high school, heard facts of the devastation it left on countries and the Jews, but you could only imagine just what effect it had on individuals.
Through this book you can get a clearer view of how it changed people, how they survived, what they had to do to get through the war, that it wasn’t just black and white. There were powerful forces behind everything that was happening and even if you were German and a Nazi you didn’t know the whole facts of why there was a war and went into it just as blind as the next person. This book showed that perfectly through the two main characters that were on opposite ends of the war. You weren’t hearing only one side, like most war novels, you got to see that both sides (the Germans and the French) were equally effected, although in different ways in some respects.
Through the lives of Werner and Marie-Laure, you could see the similarities, their experiences in love, loss and personal struggle so much so that you had no trouble jumping from one story to the other. That was one thing that made the story so easy to fall into: the short chapters. You had no chance of becoming bored or wondering what was going to happen in the other person’s life. It made the story run quicker with a chapter being only a few pages long and yet so profoundly descriptive you were left wanting more. But when you started the next chapter you took off right where you left off and it was like you never left Werner’s story or Marie-Laure’s because the transition from one person’s point of view to the next was easily adaptable.
The characters were thought provoking and raw and made it easy to believe in them. You see them as young children and watch them as they have to adapt to the harsh reality of war before they have a chance to grow up. And each character that Werner and Marie-Laure come into contact with leaves a small mark in their history and are remembered throughout the book. No character was too big or too small. They all meant something. And at the end of the book you see the connections between the characters; that one small thing had a ripple effect. I should also note that this book isn’t completely about a war. It’s about two people who live through the war, who discover things about themselves and become stronger as individuals when they realise who they are.
All the Light We Cannot See is an emotionally driven story. A powerful story that will have you feeling heavy of heart and yet utterly refreshed. It’s one for the memory bank, and one that will be hard to compete with in its storyline.