All The Light We Cannot See
Reviewed by Sidra Javed
There are books that you read and like. Some you just read and forget. But some stay with you for a long period of time. All The Light We Cannot See is one of those books. A magnificently woven characters shining brightly in the dark and doomed sky, looking down at the war torn world.
There are stories that start with happiness and later the turmoil and devastation of events drain you emotionally. (If you are like me, you will cry like rivers). But, then there are stories like All The Light We Cannot See, where loss and sorrow seep slowly into your soul and make a home there. The tragedy unwraps slowly and embraces you completely. The time period is work war ll, Hitler’s forces invading France.
Marie Laure had seen all the world around her by the age of six, when she lost her eyesight. For her the world is a maze in which she follows the juggling sound of keys in her father’s pocket. Her father is a locksmith at the Museum of Natural History in Paris. In the Museum Marie learns about a rare but cursed Diamond. When the German forces invaded Paris the management made copies of the diamond. They sent it in different directions, to avoid the plunder of Nazis. Nobody knows who has the real diamond. One of them is sent with Marie’s father.
Father and daughter move to the walled city of Saint Malo to take shelter at her great uncle’s house Etienne. Etienne used to run a radio transmission with his brother from their attic. During the WWI, his brother lost his life leaving him so traumatised that he didn’t leave the house for years. But the transmission travelled hundreds of miles away to the ears of Werner and his sister Jutta.
Werner is a German orphan living in an orphanage with his sister in a small mining town. He finds a radio from a dumpster. He fixes it and transported into a wonderfully land of possibilities. His extraordinary abilities with transmission devices lands him in a training camp later threw into the war like situation with many other boys. They all had no idea what this war is about and why are they fighting it. He, with teammates handed over the duty to locate and destroy enemy transmissions. While at it Werner finds the transmission of Etienne and Marie. Thus, destiny brings these two together.
On one hand Marie’s story tells us about the destruction, loss and trauma of the war. The looting, killing and plundering of things generations had built. On the other hand Werner’s story gives us an insight on the atrocities of war on Germans. A whole generation of young people was used as ammunition to fuel this damn war. Lives like Werner were destroyed. Hence this book is unique in a way that it gives you an insight into both sides and makes one realise that there are no winners in a war… both sides lose.
When I read a all The Light We Cannot See, the characters are real people for me and when the story ends I make my own extended version of what would happen next. So, I loved when the author gave an account of how the characters lived decades later the war..it makes it much more real.It’s a lengthy story with 500+ pages. But, the vivid beauty of prose keeps hooked you. You are propelled to read on and on. The story keeps evolving. I strongly recommend it.