While World War fiction is at the top of my Least Favorite Genres list, in the last three months I’ve read two novels that fall into the category. I feel the genre is completely oversaturated and therefore an abundance of World War fiction recycles many similar themes and tropes. I become numb to the actual history and realities of the wars. The Good Nazi or the Bad Brit, the Innocent Child Who Inevitably Dies, the Friendly American, the Confused German Wife, the Unnecessary Animal Death, the Unlucky Countrymen Slain in their Barn: all are at home in the annals of World War historical fiction.
Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See, both a Pulitzer and Andrew Carnegie Medal winner, is not an exception to this rule. Nevertheless, I found that his approach to World War II through the perspective of a blind French girl and her relationship to a mysterious diamond was an interesting literary device. That she couldn’t see forced Doerr to provide creative ways to communicate her world and the stone was a unique tool for telling a tired story. Doerr’s novel is a touching one: no losses rip too vigorously through your stomach and there is a satisfying amount of closure.
Due to the elevated language, tone, literary devices, and overarching themes in All the Light, I won’t be surprised if this book ends up on school reading lists within a few years and eventually on shelves as a Classic.
Overall, I enjoyed reading the book and the story will stick with me. I would recommend it to anyone who likes World War historical fiction or who wants to read popular fiction that doesn’t fall under the stereotype of “beach read.”