Prior to joining this book club as a way to broaden my genre horizons I had avoided the historical fiction section of any bookstore like the plague. But for some reason I was intrigued when I heard we would be reading All The Light We Cannot See, a story about Marie Laure, a blind Parisian girl, and Werner, a German orphan boy, whose polar opposite lives eventually collide during Nazi occupied France. The potential for a romance and star crossed lovers situation were the first thoughts that came to mind after reading the synopsis, and I held onto this hope when I found out the book was five hundred and thirty two pages long, and even when Amazon would only sell hardback copies for $17… I decided I was in it for the long haul.
So after coddling this five pound book for a month and a half between Los Angeles, London, and Paris, floundering between liking it and not, I finally finished and marked another occasion where I don’t understand the popularity behind a book.
The language Anthony Doerr uses is no doubt beautiful and imagery particularly during Marie-Laure’s chapters make you feel as if you are fingering your way through Saint-Malo and the halls of her uncle’s creaky home, but the constant person, time, and location changes frequently put me off. At one point the story would be with a young Marie-Laure on one of her many walks with her cryptic father, and a few pages later the plot would be catapulted years into the future with a teenage Werner in military academy. These changes flip between Werner and Marie Laure every chapter so it is easy to decipher which character will be the focus, but being thrown into a random time and place every few pages frequently took me out of the story.
My main issue with this book is that I lost interest in it. The story was not lacking in interesting characters or page turning moments, but when I got halfway through (and realized that was only page 270!) reading the book turned from something to pass the time, to a chore. Rather than look forward to finding out more of the plot I counted the pages until I would be finished. And I looked forward to meeting with the girls in my book club to hear whether I was the only person who could not appreciate literature, or whether they too, had no idea why this book had such a huge following.
After all this it turned out I had to work so could not go to the discussion, but the general consensus was-’…I didn’t finish it/I didn’t like it,’ except for one girl who fell in love with the story.
I think it is best that I go back to avoiding the historical fiction section of my book store and venture into romance next time I feel like trying something new.