Thursday, January 29, 2015

All the Light We Cannot See: Halleluiah, I Am Finished

Early this morning (around 4:45 Houston time), I felt as if a burden had been lifted from my shoulders.  That's the precise moment that I turned the 530th, and final, page of All the Light We Cannot See.  I'm done!

Now, admittedly, the last 90 or so pages of the book did finally start working better for me.  I was curious, if not necessarily anxious, about how the author was going to have his two main characters interact when they finally met.  I'm sure that Mr. Doerr would have preferred anxiety over curiosity as I approached the book's climax, but he should consider curiosity an achievement considering my blasè reaction to the book's first 400 pages.  

Because this is my fourth post about All the Light We Cannot See, I am going to consider the four, taken together, as my official "review" of the book.  

I want to make a few final points both about All the Light and about the review process, in general.  As for the book itself, I found it rather dry and repetitive despite its shift of scene and characters every two or three pages. The plot was an intriguing one or I would have never picked up the book in the first place - but the style in which it was recounted, mainly due to repetitiveness and slow pacing, was just not a comfortable fit for me.  I was never drawn toward picking the book up between readings; I had to force myself to go back to it instead of reading from other books that I was enjoying more.  And, while the book's characters were interesting ones, I never became emotionally invested in any of them with the exception of a minor character called Frederick ( but explaining Frederick would cause me to reveal a spoiler).

These are my thoughts on the process of book reviewing:

During my eight years on Book Chase, I have never held myself out as some kind of authority on what constitutes a good book and what makes a book a bad one.  I am not an authority.  I am simply someone who has been reading steadily for over 50 years, someone who quickly recognizes when a book is working for him and when it is not.  What I do in my reviews is explain why a book works for ME - or why it fails to do so.  I realize that my reviews are based on opinion, gut feel, and and so many other intangibles that I could not list them all even if I tried.  

But more importantly, I realize that one man's trash is another man's treasure.  I am well aware that All the Light We Cannot See is a book loved by many thousands of readers around the world.  I know that it is a hit with most professional reviewers who are lucky enough still to have their work published in major newspapers.  I am not saying they are wrong about the book.  I'm not saying that I'm right.

I am simply telling you why this particular book does not work for me.  You may love it; you may hate it.  Only you can decide something that personal.

Earlier Posts Mentioned:

Still Waiting for All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See: Were My Expectations Too High

All the Light We Cannot See: I've Just About Had Enough


  1. Hooray for finishing! I hope you are now reading something that you are enjoying very much. Also, allow me to compliment you on your diplomacy :)

  2. I'm well into The Year of Reading Dangerously and even though some of the book choices the author made are a little mystifying to me (some of the British titles he reads are pretty much unknown in the US), it is a book I look forward to picking up again...a huge plus.

    As for the diplomacy, I think I'm in danger of becoming an equal-opprtunity offender if I'm not careful. :-)

  3. Sam, thank you for your thoughts on this book. As you know, I've been wanting to get this book -- and like you said, it does have a real wealth of favorable reviews all over the place -- a lot of hype. Hmm, I wonder if I will still have it at the top of my "Need To Get" list.

    1. Cip, you might want to sample a few pages of the book before plunking any cash down. See if the rhythm of the prose and the way the narrative flows fits your personal reading style. If I had done that first, I probably wouldn't have invested so much reading time in this one...but at least it was a library copy.

  4. I had been eyeing this novel. Also, I noticed another one of this author's titles is at the library. I've got some down time coming up, so I'll browse and give it a chance.

    Congrats on mustering through!

  5. I got there in the end, Susan. And I guess that, in one sense, it was not a book I should have completely avoided because now I can discuss it with any of its fans I run across in the real world and on the net...and can empathize with those who reacted to it as I did.