All the Light We Cannot See Book Review

all-the-light-we-cannot-seeThe Washington Post book review praises All the Light We Cannot See to the extreme, stating it is “enthrallingly told, beautifully written and so emotionally plangent that some passages bring tears..” The Post’s review also describes “unbearable suspense.”

I wish I felt the same way, and apparently many people do because it spent 58 weeks on the best-sellers list, won the Pulitzer Prize, and the Andrew Carnegie Prize for fiction.

Too Slow

Unfortunately, I thought the novel moved too slow. 530 pages of slow.

I didn’t feel the strong emotions described in the Washington Post book review and suspense did not exist for me. Although the writing and the characters were enthralling, the story as a whole fell flat for me.


Anthony Doerr has an exceptional ability to turn a phrase. His writing, descriptions in particular, are extraordinary.

Because one of the main characters is blind, Doerr is forced to use the other senses to describe was she experiences. This inspired some truly great and unique descriptions.

Read my previous post, Sounds and Smells from All The Light We Cannot See, for more quotes. Here are my favorites:

“From outside comes a light tinkling, fragments of glass, perhaps, falling into the streets. It sounds both beautiful and strange, as though gemstones were raining from the sky.”

“Madame Ruelle, the baker’s wife–a pretty-voiced woman who smells mostly of yeast but also sometimes of face powder or the sweet perfume of sliced apples–…”


Does this picture trigger your sense of smell?

Characters and Setting

The characters were round, interesting, and memorable. The differing characters worked beautifully to tell different sides of the story.

I became fond of both of the main characters, a blind girl in France and a teenage boy in Germany. Even though they were opponents, fighting for different sides of the war, I wanted the best for both of them. I believed both of them were good people caught in a horrible situation, and that always makes for a good story. 

Historical Fiction is no where near my favorite genre but I did enjoy the realistic, foreign setting and the 1930s/40s time period. I enjoy learning while reading fiction. 


3 stars. Beautiful descriptions, lovely characters, but the story was just too darn slow for me.


About Sarah JS

Aspiring writer, lover of words, book nerd, working editor, and permanent student of the world

Posted on September 13, 2015, in Book Review and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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