By: Anna Shapiro ~Staff Writer~
Anthony Doerr’s Pulitzer Prize winner, “All The Light We Cannot See,” is a New York Time’s best seller that doesn’t seem to be dropping off the list. Set during World War II, it follows two stories: that of the blind teenager Marie-Laure, and the German orphan Werner.
Written in very short, easy-to-read chapters, the narration skips back and forth in time and between the two main characters, eventually bringing them together through their involvement in the war.
The uniting factor? Radios. Marie-Laure uses a radio that should have been confiscated but instead she kept hidden in her home to help aid the French resistance.
Werner, a mathematical prodigy, uses his skills to locate radios for the Nazis after being admitted into a special training program for the Hitler youth. The short chapters, told mostly in flashbacks, help move the plot swiftly toward the pivotal point, which is the meeting of the two main characters at the Allied bombed French town of St. Malo.
Marie-Laure is the real star of the book. She bravely accepts loaves of “ordinary” bread filled with codes from a townsperson and broadcasts them over the radio. Everything about her as a character, from her motives to her blindness, is well realized and easily believable. Werner, on the other hand, is a less likable character. He works for the Nazis, he is a Nazi and he and the other Nazi’s around him fall back on pretty clichéd stereotypes of what the Nazis were like. The reader finds themselves rooting much more so for Marie-Laure in her acts of resistance than for Werner on his Nazi missions.
Ultimately, though, Werner isn’t all bad news. During the bombings, when Marie-Laure gets fed up with everything and starts blasting music on the radio, it’s Werner who hears the music, locates the radio and saves her. No, the two don’t fall in love, and it doesn’t end happily ever after. But Marie-Laure certainly gets the ending she deserves as a wartime hero, and Werner gets exactly what a Nazi has coming for him.