Review: All the Light We Cannot See

I went into this story, by Anthony Doerr, not knowing what to expect; perhaps a love story between the German boy and the blind girl; perhaps a fantasy about the magic or curse coming from the diamond; perhaps a lesson about greed, or violence, or duty.

As it turns out, all of those were small elements. The story rolls along through those themes and through the history of the times and the geography of places with beautifully descriptive phrasing. I was quite enamored of the author’s skill with words. For three quarters of the book, the descriptions kept me looking forward to the next chapter. Then, I began to skip whole paragraphs, waiting for strings to be tied together, for plot elements to be brought to nice conclusions.

That didn’t happen. The story has so very much to offer, but it left me unsatisfied. It was certainly a love story, but the lovers appear to be author and his main character. Let me explain: Every other character focuses on the girl. Yet, the girl never changes, never grows as a person. Her only given reason for being much loved is that she’s blind. Everyone who loved her ended up dead, and she seemed unfazed, unchanged.

So maybe the legend of the diamond was true….but that didn’t pan out either.

Maybe the point of the story is one can go through life blindly and come out the victor. Luck is the only requirement.

My only conclusion is that the author wrote from a historical perspective and realistic events evolved, because war is hell: The loss of innocence. Self-sacrifice. The invader’s greed. Intended and unintended killing. The squashing of good that might be found in any human, even the enemy. The danger of blind loyalty and blind duty. She was the only saving grace, somewhat like a precious work of art or pure innocence, worthy of ultimate protection.

This book is well worth reading because it leaves so many questions. The themes are ripe for discussion, and I look forward to thrashing it out at my next book club meeting.

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