Weekly Blog February 5th, 2023: All The Light We Cannot See


Hello Internet!

I hope you all are doing well and staying healthy! Well we officially made it through January which means that we’re 1/12th the way through the year. Have you given up on your New Year Resolutions or your themes? If so, it’s not too late to start again. Don’t write off the rest of 2023 just because your January wasn’t great. I know for a lot of people January felt super long, but for me it felt like it went by super quick. I felt like I did pretty well on working on all my goals for the year but felt myself slipping a bit at the end of the month. I’m trying to refocus and keep my themes of health, reading, and writing in mind. I’m actually going to be talking about one of the books I read recently, but first I want to talk about the things I’ve published in the past week. 

Well actually I only published one thing in the past week. Last Sunday I published a Weekly Blog talking about the music album Expert In A Dying Field By The Beths. My YouTube algorithm suggested this band called The Beths and I loved their music so much I wanted to talk about it. I don’t usually talk about music because really I don’t have much to say about the songs I listen to other than that I like them. But this band is pretty unknown outside of New Zealand and I think they deserve some more attention. So check out my Weekly Blog about The Beths and their music and then go check out their music. I think you’ll really enjoy it. And that’s it. I didn’t publish any other pieces because I felt like they weren’t ready and I didn’t want to stress out over them, so I just pushed them. I’m hoping that I have some time to work on them and publish them this week. So just keep an eye out.

Now let’s move on to talk about a book I recently read and enjoyed, “All The Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr. I actually started this book bask in August of last year, read about half of it, and then fell off. This wasn’t because of the book or anything. I just did not prioritize sitting down and reading in the later half of last year. However, when I had some time around Christmas time I started reading it again and after that I tore through it. And I’m so glad I went back to read it because it was really good. I was actually recommended this book because of its similarities to “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak which is arguably one of my favorite books of all time. And it’s pretty easy to make comparisons between the two. Both follow a young, female protagonist during World War II and are subject to Nazi occupation. Of course, in The Book Thief,  Liesel Meminger is German while in All The Light We Cannot See, Marie-Laure Leblanc is French. But All The Light We Cannot See actually has two main characters and the other one, Werner Pfennig is German and actually plays a much bigger part in the Nazi’s efforts than Liesel.

Why don’t I put the comparisons aside and just talk about the plot of All The Light We Cannot See. Like I said, this book actually has two main characters and the book is divided pretty evenly between Marie-Laure Leblanc’s perspective and the point of view of Werner Pfennig. So who are these characters? Well, let’s start with Marie and her father. At the start of the book, she is a young girl living with her father in Paris. Her father is a master locksmith and works for the Museum of Natural History in Paris. Marie goes blind when she’s only six which leads her father to building a small, scale model of the city so Marie can navigate the city by herself. He also gets her presents inside of puzzle boxes and gets her books in braille. Her favorite book is “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” by Jules Verne. Since Marie’s father works for the museum, she hears about one of the relics that the museum keeps, which is a diamond called The Sea of Flames. This diamond is said to be cursed. The legend says that it grants immortality to whoever possesses it but it comes with a great cost that bad things will happen to everyone around them. When Germany invades France and kicks off World War II, Marie and her father flee Paris and travel to the French coastal town of Saint-Malo where Marie’s great-uncle Etienne lives. Etienne is a shell-shocked recluse who spends his time stuck inside his large house broadcasting old, scientific recordings. Basically science lessons turned into a radio play.

These recordings are actually the first thing that connects Marie and Werner Pfennig. Werner is a poor German orphan living in a small, coal mining town with his sister, Jutta. It’s during this time at the orphanage that Werner fixes a broken radio and is able to tune into these science broadcasts. Werner is a naturally smart kid and gains a reputation for knowing how to fix radios. This earns him a spot at a Nazi science academy. Werner is not a big fan of the Nazis and their ideology but he knows attending this school is the best way to escape his fate of being a coal miner and follow his love of science. While attending this academy, Werner gets special training in geometry and trigonometry in order to triangulate the location of radio signals. Eventually Werner leaves the academy and gets assigned to a military team that is tasked to track down enemy radio signals and kill whoever is broadcasting those signals.

While Werner is on his mission, Marie actually has a mission of her own. Etienne’s longtime housekeeper Madame Manec ends up joining others in the town as part of the French resistance against the Nazi occupiers. Madame Manec picks up secret codes from the bakery in town and brings them back to the house to be broadcasted. It took a little bit of convincing, but Marie persuades Etienne to use the radio equipment in the house to broadcast the codes. Then after Madame Manec gets sick and dies, Marie takes up the mission of going to the bakery and getting the codes. This broadcasting of codes over the radio ends up leading to both main characters coming together. Werner’s mission ends up bringing him to Saint-Malo where he is tasked with finding the broadcast that Etienne and Marie are using to send the encrypted codes. However Werner is questioning his mission and remembers the joy that the science broadcasts brought to him and his sister. So when has a chance to turn in Marie and Etienne, he refuses.

The big final conflict of the story comes when in the final chapters, the allied forces start besieging Saint-Malo in order to defeat the Germans stationed there and liberate the town. During the bombings, Werner finds himself trapped in the basement of the town’s hotel which was taken over and turned into a temporary outpost for the German Army. Meanwhile Entine has been captured and taken away from the house, leaving Marie all alone with only a few cans of food to wait out the bombnigs. Or she would be alone if not for German Major Reinhold von Rumpel. I haven’t really touched on this other plot thread happening during the books, but basically Reinhold von Rumpel is a Nazi gemologist and is in search of the Sea of Flames. At one point, Marie’s father is actually captured on his way back to Paris and sent to a prisoner’s camp. Von Rumpel is tracking Marie’s father down because the Paris Museum where Marie’s father worked made fake replicas of the gems and sent the real gem with Marie and her father. Von Rumpel is dying of cancer and believes that the gem will grant him immortality so he’s desperate to find it. The Sea of Flames ends up in Marie’s possession and Von Rumpel tracks it down to the house while Allied planes are bombing the town. 

Now I know I’ve given away a lot of the plot, but I won’t say too much more. I don’t want to spoil the ending. Honestly I didn’t even cover everything because this book definitely packs a lot into its pages. It is also a pretty quick read all things considered. The book is made up of very short chapters (I think the longest is like four or five pages) and jumps back and forth between the storylines. Some people might be confused by the jumping back and forth or not like it, but I didn’t find it disruptive at all. I think it actually highlights the two different journeys the characters are going on over the course of the book. The book also has multiple timelines going at the same time. We have the “present day” timeline going where the city is being besieged by the allied forces and then we jump back to see how we got here. Again, some readers might find this confusing but I found it very interesting. I liked seeing small bits of what’s happening “present day” and then jumping back for long flashbacks on how we got here. And again, once both timelines converge and we only have stuff going on during the siege of Saint-Malo, the book really takes off. I was a bit worried that the book wouldn’t stick the landing, but I was totally wrong to worry. It was good through and through and I cannot recommend it more. Now do I like it more than “The Book Thief?” Well…no, but that’s a very high bar. And who knows, maybe if I read this book first, I would have put this as my favorite book. 

Again, I know that I talked a lot about the plot, but I do recommend reading this book if you haven’t already. There are some really powerful, emotional moments throughout this book and it’s a bit hard to convey those when I just ran through the entire plot in a single blog post. The writing of this book is so good and the characters are very compelling. I mean there’s a reason why this book won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Overall it’s just a really good book that pulls on the heartstrings.

Thank you for reading that Weekly Blog all about the book “All The Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr. I hope you enjoyed my plot summary and my thoughts on the book as a whole. When I went into writing this I didn’t think I’d go so plot heavy, but really there’s just so much of the plot to discuss. And again, I know I said this multiple times. Even though I talked about the plot a lot, there are some major details missing. It’s definitely worth reading even if you read through this Weekly Blog and have not read the book. Go give it a read! If you liked this Weekly Blog, please give it a Like. This just helps with engagement and lets me know what sort of stuff you like to read. I definitely plan on reading more books this year and then talking about it here. So let me know if you like that. You can also leave a comment down below. Let me know if you have read All The Light We Cannot See. Did you like it? Love it? Hate it? Did you think it was an easy read or was it tough to finish? I’d love to hear all your opinions about this book in the comments. Lastly, if you really liked this Weekly Blog and want to see more of what I write, I highly recommend that you Follow me here on WordPress. This allows me to grow my audience while also putting my stuff in your reader’s feed so you can see it as soon as I publish it. I have written and published over 750 pieces and there’s more coming out this year, so you’ll want to make sure that you are Following me here on WordPress. I really want to grow my audience and reach the milestone of 900 Followers and then 1,000 Followers. And that only happens if wonderful people decide to join my community. I’m trying to build a creative and positive space on the internet and I’d love for you to be a part of that. 

Thank you again for the support and I hope you have a wonderful week!


Header Photo Credit to the Wikipedia article about All The Light We Cannot See

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