All the Light We Cannot See16 Apr 2015
Doer’s novel sets its aims high and achieves some impressive technical and formal goals. All the praise it has received from critics is largely backed up upon reading. In fact, every time I read a critique or a commentary on the novel, I end up thinking I liked it a lot. Doer flows back and forth between characters with ease. He moves the story through time, a fraught time at that, beautifully. He has thought up some really impressive characters, especially Marie-Laure. His usage of objects and imagery, especially leading blind readers through the world of a blind protagonist is well done. He even used one of my favorite books, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, as a focal point. He even had a bunch of math and physics, usually subjects that get me excited when they’re written about masterfully without being dumbed down. All of these things are to be praised.
But the truth is, the book just didn’t resonate with me. Somehow, the book fell shorter than the sum of its parts. Werner, von Rumpel, Jutta and some of the characters on that half of the story’s world were not built with bright enough emotional lives for me to feel empathy for them. Marie-Laure, and her family, although interesting felt entirely saccharine and without complications.
I suppose this happens sometimes in life, everything is executed properly, comes together nicely but it leaves us wanting for something more. I know some people felt this way last year when the Spurs won the NBA championship. There are years when films win Academy Awards because of their perfect execution, while others with more heart go unnoticed. Heart, frustratingly for many creators, is just either there or not there. For me, there was little to no heart in this book.