Since I get most of my reading material from the public library I sometimes wait a little longer to read new releases. So I am about a year late on last year’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, All the Light We Cannot See.
The book alternates between Marie-Laure, a young blind girl; and Werner, a young German orphan. Marie-Laure is forced to escape Paris with her father following the German invasion during World War II. Werner’s love of science is manipulated to draw him into a school for the Hitler Youth.
Marie-Laure’s father is a gifted craftsman who works for the Museum of Natural Science in Paris. He builds Marie-Laure intricate models of her neighborhood streets so she can navigate them on her own.
Werner is a gifted boy who can make a radio out of anything and longs to learn more. The author interweaves their stories as larger events play out around them.
I kept putting off reading this because it seemed sad and it IS sad. But it’s also wonderful. The imagery in this book is beautiful without being overbearing. Because Marie-Laure can’t see; the smells, textures, and sounds of Saint-Malo are described in vivid detail. This focus on the natural world adds a different twist on traditional historical fiction.
I also loved how it showed a different side of a German character than we often get to see in this genre. In many ways Werner is as much a victim of the Nazis as the French people suffering under the occupation. This is a must read for a historical fiction fan but I think almost everyone will find it incredibly moving and well-written.