Ok, I had half started this review for my penultimate bingo square, and then realized that I almost missed the opportunity to make this book LITERALLY TITLED ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE AND FEATURING A BLIND PROTAGONIST my blackout finish. Luckily I realized my error in time to finish strong.
This book follows Marie-Laure, a girl with congenital cataracts which have left her blind, in Nazi-occupied France. Her father, a locksmith for the Museum, is one of four employees sent with a priceless gem and three decoys to various parts of the country to avoid it falling into enemy hands, and he and Marie-Laure flee to her shell-shocked great-uncle’s house to evade capture.
Concurrently we follow Werner, a fair-haired orphan with a gift for engineering and math, and how his skill leads him into the German Army. Werner’s “pure math” is used to triangulate the position of enemy targets, and as the novel progresses the damage he does becomes harder and harder to ignore. (Completely tangentially, there is SO much talk of Werner’s fairness that I was waiting to learn he had albinism, keeping with the ocular disorder theme in the book, but that’s probably my ophthalmology background looking for eye stuff where there isn’t any.)
It’s no spoiler to share that their paths eventually cross, and like any story with this one’s complexity, it takes a while to warm up. There’s a lot of dominoes to line up, but they do make a lovely pattern once they fall, and the denouement pays off. The first chapters took me a looooong time to get through, but it was in fact worth it; I was tearing through pages toward the end. It’s a good book, but more than that, it’s an IMPRESSIVE one. Trying to complete a synopsis made me realize how many threads run through this book, and how expertly they’re woven together. Pulitzer deserved.