Book 31 on My Book List 2021
”Why bother to make music when the silence and wind are so much larger? Why light lamps when the darkness will inevitably snuff them?”
This book was a dark, dark book, but then again it were extremely dark times and all our two main characters Marie-Laure and Werner were trying to do, was to survive them. To be honest I really don’t know how I feel about “All the Light We Cannot See”. It was a good and thought-provoking book and the story was written beautifully. Still, after all the reviews I read I thought this story would hit me harder and that it would be one of those books that would leave me crying in the end. None of that happened though and even though the plot was well-crafted and the prose was lyrical I still couldn’t help but feel a little detached from the characters and their fate.
I think I’m just not used to historical fiction anymore. The writing style in books like this one is very different to what I usually read and even though you follow the characters, you’re not exactly in their heads which is probably one of the main reasons why I didn’t connect all too much with them. Also I was in a huge reading slump when I started to read the book in April and only picked it up in August again. I did finish it in a couple of days then though so yeah. It definitely had me engaged and I wanted to know what was going to happen next, I just wasn’t as attached to the characters as I usually am when I read other books.
”I want to be an engineer. And you want to study birds. Be like that American painter in the swamps. Why else do any of this if not to become who we want to be?”
A stillness in the room. Out there in the trees beyond Frederick’s window hangs an alien light.
“Your problem, Werner,” says Frederick, “is that you still believe you own your life.”
I however will admit that some scenes in this book hurt. Badly. No matter if it was Marie-Laure who struggled to survive in a world that was ever-changing and had no room for people with disabilities or Werner who just wanted to become an engineer and was forced to go to war instead. Their stories were so different, yet they both were connected somehow. Werner’s childhood and his very brutal education in one of the German military schools, Marie-Laure’s life as a blind person in times that made it even harder to navigate through them because nothing ever stayed the same. Two different sides of a coin but both connected in ways you could only grasp if you closed your eyes and let yourself sink into the story. The older they got the harder their lives became and the stronger the war around them raged. To see the world through Werner’s eyes and Marie-Laure’s ears was at least as fascinating and unique as it was heart-breaking.
”Frederick said we don’t have choices, don’t own our lives, but in the end it was Werner who pretended there were no choices, Werner who watched Frederick dump the pail of water at his feet – I will not – Werner who stood by as the consequences came raining down. Werner who watched Volkheimer wade into house after house, the same ravening nightmare recurring over and over and over.”
But it wasn’t just about Marie-Laure and Werner. There were so many other side-characters that stuck with me but I think Frederick and Volkheimer were the two people I still think about the most. It’s kinda funny how sometimes the side-characters actually leave a deeper impact on the reader than the main characters themselves.
I mean Frederick… oh Frederick. His story moved me the most and I still feel anger boiling deep in my stomach whenever I think about it. In Germany of World War II there was no room for honourable people like Frederick and it still hurts to think about this precious boy. I suppose there was no room for boys like Volkheimer or Werner as well. Volkheimer who was the best soldier because he was burly and did exactly what he was told, but still was so gentle with Werner whenever he was ill. Their friendship was everything and I couldn’t help but like Volkheimer even though he did what he did. Talk about conflicting feelings. >_<
Volkheimer definitely saw the potential in Werner and appreciated his talent and gifts. Truth be told, I think Werner was a genius that never got a chance to shine because all his talent went into the war machine and for me this makes him an even more tragic character than he would have been already.
”Go,” says Volkheimer again. Werner looks at him a last time: his torn jacket and shovel jaw. The tenderness of his big hands. What you could be.
Did he know? All along?
I think this quote emphasizes it pretty well. Anyway, there’s one thing I still need to address before I wrap up my review and this is the supposed love story in this book. When you read the blurb you automatically think that there will be a love story between Marie-Laure and Werner but this is not the case. There is no love story between them and they only meet once in the entire book. So if you’re going into this book because you expect a romance you better be aware of this. I totally expected there to be a love story between them and was pretty disappointed when I discovered that there was none. Maybe I would have enjoyed the book even more if I would have known that from the get-go.
”Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.”
This said “All the Light We Cannot See” was a very good and thought-provoking book. It’s a slow story that takes time to unfold and to grow which is in total contrast to the fast-paced world and the time it plays in, but I think this was actually a big part of its charm. If you’re looking for a good historical fiction book that plays in World War II and packs a subtle yet strong punch you definitely should pick it up.