All The Light We Cannot See is like a sad song that touches your heart and leaves you contemplating long after you’ve heard it. It starts with an array of lovable characters in situations we wouldn’t wish on our worst enemies. It, then, masterfully makes us live these situations along with the characters through wonderful writing and storytelling. Multiple POVs and coherently developing timelines, almost like building up to a crescendo, then everything coming together and collapsing in that one moment. You’ll experience a flawless execution of a heart-wrenching story with a conclusion that ties everything up in a nice little bow.
Even though it was a bit longer than what I usually read, it never felt that way, partly because dividing each scene into individual chapters works perfectly, as it never wore me out and compelled me to read just a little more every time. About 80 pages in Herr Siedler, the penultimate chapter of part 1, I was completely engrossed in the story. From that point on, everything came together. The jumps between different POVs and even timelines felt immaculately coherent until the very end. This served as a perfect canvas for a heartbreaking story filled with lovable characters you lament for, because of the wonderful writing.
The following part of the review contains MAJOR SPOILERS, so I highly recommend you to read the novel. Come back and let me know if you agree with the rest of this review.
There were three chapters that stood out for me. First, as I mentioned before, Herr Siedler, the penultimate chapter of the first part. It transforms the story and Werner’s life completely by giving him a glimpse of what he thinks could be his way out. For the reader, I think, it burns in the adverse condition this 13-year-old is in and gives us false hope for a better future. It is also virtually the starting point of Werner’s story.
The second is White City, the ante-penultimate chapter of part seven. It serves almost as a flip-switch moment for Werner. He was on the fence regarding his actions in the war from the very beginning, still, he pushed through everything, but, this chapter was essentially his breaking point. When he sees that little girl in the wardrobe with a bullet hole right between her eyes, it shatters him and lays the groundwork for things to follow.
Finally, Berlin, the very first chapter of the eleventh part broke me as a reader. We often forget that irrespective of the outcome of the war, the general populace always suffers. This chapter, in a mere 3 pages, describes the horrible atrocities that were committed by the universally deemed “good side” in the war. And to top all that, it comes at the heels of Werner’s demise, which was just heart-breaking. It, however, leads perfectly into the denouement of the story. The fallout of the war and the epilogue of the story, even though not desirable, were authentic. It was never meant to be a fairy tale and it didn’t try to be that, not even at the very end. It felt like every character had a satisfying conclusion, and even though none of them had a truly happy ending, it was the best they could have had in such adverse conditions.
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