All the Light We Cannot See… a 3 month journey


3 of 5 stars

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Here we have yet another book that EVERYONE except me loved. I’m obviously weird. I had to set this book down several times because I couldn’t get into it. But I always picked it back up, determined to finish… I guess that says something about the writer.

All the Light We Cannot See focuses on the events of World War II in Europe, specifically France. The main character is really “the war”… and there are beautifully written, snapshots that capture the true nature of the war and the emotion of those effected by the war. There are 3 storylines going on throughout: (1) A blind girl, Marie Laure, is forced to leave her hometown with her father, the security warden for The Natural History Museum, who may or may not hold the “Sea of Flames” – the most precious, most cursed, but most powerful stone ever made because the holder is said to be unable to die. (INTRIGUE!!) (2) An orphan Werner, who has a fascination with learning and engineering, specifically re-making radios so that he and his sister can listen to an old man who broadcasts “illegal” educational shows. (2) Sgt von Rumpel, a German and therefore the enemy, who is dying and is using his position to ransack homes while searching for the Sea of Flames.

Throughout the story, Marie Laure grows into a strong woman who supports the underground movement against Germany; Werner is taken to a training school for gifted boys to learn about radios/receivers and is eventually recruited into the war to help locate illegal radio broadcasts that are supporting the German opposition – he is constantly conflicted as to whether he is doing the right thing; and Sgt von Rumpel is truly scary… he searches for any people who have connection to the Sea of Flames, gets information from them, and then disposes of them all while keeping a creepily calm demeanor. 

The way that all of these stories tie together in the end is really great, almost like a true story – the ending actually felt like I was sitting next to a World War II survivor letting them tell their story. So it was very well researched and well written. However, the beginning took me a very long time to get into. I kept reading though because I could tell that this writer is truly talented. Eventually, you start seeing how everything connects and the book is much more readable.

What I disliked was the setup… the book jumps back and forth in time and also jumps from character to character, so it gets confusing. I found myself having to check the dates often. The jumping through time just feels unnecessary and does not add any suspense or glamour to the story. I think it would have been much easier to follow and get into if everything had been in chronological order and only skips from character to character. But that’s just me.

Overall, this is a beautifully written story. I would recommend it… when it starts lagging, just know that it does pick up and the ending is worth it.


10 thoughts on “All the Light We Cannot See… a 3 month journey

    • Thanks, John. And no problem. I would say that you’re not necessarily missing out. It’s one of those books that I’m not mad I read, but I also feel like I could have lived without it.

  1. Believe me, you’re not the only one! I read a NYT review of this a few months ago. They disliked it for the same reasons as you!

  2. Thanks for an honest review. It’s one of the books that I have been meaning to pick up, based on a lot of bloggers recommending it. I love war-time stories, especially WWII, therefore I’ve assumed that I would love it too. Thanks for giving a different view on the book, I’ll adjust my expectations, but as long as the ending is worth it 🙂

    • Hey, no problem. Thanks for the feedback. This was a difficult book to review. Because I, too, love WWII fiction, and this is a beautiful story. It’s just difficult to not feel bogged down when you’re reading. As an example, I’m a chronic one book at a time person. But I read 4 or 5 other books during the process of reading this one.

  3. I finished reading this book last night. Personally, I loved it BUT I would say that, like you, the one part that I found a little difficult was the time jumping. I’ll be the first person to admit that I don’t always pay attention to title pages so I really had to make sure I paid attention to dates and found myself flipping back and forth a few times! I’m glad overall you enjoyed the book!

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