Review #317

I’ve been procrastinating to read The Light We Cannot See for 10 months and now I know why. I rated this historical fiction a 2.8/5 stars. I’ve read lots of historical fiction and yes, this one might be more realistic than the others, but it was so boring. It hasn’t taken me 9 days to finish a book in over 18 months and that was the case for this one.

My positive note- the author’s vocabulary and sentence formation was often exquisite. And he did well with painting a picture. Otherwise, because soooo many people loved it and my review won’t make any difference, I’m comfortable saying I hated this book. The only reason I kept going was because of how much my sister loved it. I kept waiting for it to get better or to connect and it was just soooo depressing and or flat. Either everything sucked or the emotions felt bland. And the title never redeemed itself. There wasn’t ever any “light” shown. There was no metaphor for seeing the light. Where was any hope? Yes, some survived, but I still didn’t feel any gratefulness or appreciation or closure from their fast forward moments into the future at the end of the novel. It ended abruptly, yet simultaneously the story dragged on much too long. Barely any characters had agency. They were all victims & traumatized & it was just such a downer. The whole time. And the only part I ended caring about (the stone) concluded with such a gray area answer that I don’t even know what to think. I’m frustrated in general. But yes, the prose (at times) were gorgeous. Because of that reason alone I can see professors picking this as an academic required reading. Overall, I’d never want to read this again or recommend it to others.

Here are my live thoughts while reading:

So the story starts in August 1944 with short one page segments labeled “Leaflets,” “Bombers,” “The girl,” “The boy,” “Saint-Malo,” “Cellar” … and so they continue.

French citizen, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is 16 and German private, Werner Pfennig is 18, both awaiting planes to drop their bombs in the last moments before the attack.

Then chapter 1 goes back in time to 1934 when Marie- Laure is age 6 in Paris and her eyesight is already deteriorating which eventually leads to her blindness.

The narrative stayed in third person present tense but it’s a bit abrupt switching “segments” within the chapters so quickly.

Werner is 7 during his flashback and the author continues to set the scene of another setting with detailed description. The emotion is flat so far and there’s minimal dialogue but the prose are beautiful.

Marie is learning how to navigate through her blindness at a young age with the help of her father who constructs a model of their neighborhood and finds strategies to guide her through their house. Because it’s in third person, I feel like I’m being told her journey of new experiences instead of sending the blindness in a first person narrative, but it’s still gorgeous writing. This book is for readers who like to settle into detail and take their time.

I love how curious Werner is about the abstract questions of life and his philosophical thinking at such a young age. I wish both main characters had more of an objective. So far it’s a story, but neither have a goal.

The Exodus chapter is interesting because it switches to her father’s voice.

Section 2 is very short and brings us back to the time of the prologue in 1944. Then after a few pages section 3 rewinds to June 1940.

This historical fiction book is written differently than others in its genre the at I’ve read.

When we switch to the chapter called “Vienna,” to Sergeant Major Reinhold con Rumpel’s point of view I’m getting a bit frustrated by moving to the 4th voice now.

Ugh. A few chapters later the “Perfumer” goes to Claude Levite’s point of view. The story needs to pick up the pace. It’s taking a bit too long to get to the part that matters.

The magical stone is by far the most interesting part of this story and it’s not being used enough.

Part 4 goes back to 1944. The world is shown in great detail but it lags in plot.

Poor Fredrick

I like the pendulum metaphor. That was cool.

Section 5 jumps to January 1941 in their past again

At the halfway mark I’ve submerged myself into the heart of how depressing it all feels. There’s no hope. Anywhere. It’s effective but hard to get through. Where is the light? There’s none.

The sixth part switches to August 1944. Overall, the book is slow, but so many people are in love with it so that fact alike has me trudging along. Bit by bit. It’s very gloomy, there’s not really anything to look forward to. There’s nothing I’m “rooting for” because it all seems about waiting and surviving.

It quickly goes back to August 1942 again after a few pages. I only recently caught on about Von Rumpel’s association to Marie-Laure. I just want it to be over.

Section 8- August 1944
Section 9- May 1944
Page 392 was what I’d been waiting for labeled “The Voice.”

When the story says it’ll be a week until “they arrive,” I don’t know if that’s a rescuer or enemy?

On page 428, in a chapter called “Little House” the momentum is finally picking up. I just wish we had gotten here sooner. And there’s still 100 pages left. It hasn’t taken me this long to get through a book for over a year.

Section 10 is August 1944

There’s been three separates times now when it’s unclear if and when someone dies. Which is very frustrating after investing so much time.

Section 11- 1945

Well, there should probably be a trigger warning for on page rape

Section 12- 1974

Section 13- year 2014. At least some things were wrapped up. But I felt no joy or relief from these characters. Yes they were entwined in the end but there was no gut wrenching relief or release of pain that I expected. There was no enlightenment or ease or anything. They just “existed.” I feel like this author’s style is meant for writing poetry but the way he did the plot arc did nothing for me. Again, I feel comfortable tearing this apart a bit just because of how famous it was. My little unpopular opinion isn’t going to change the trend of readers loving it.

Published by CassieSwindon

Fiction author

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