Book Review: All The Light There Was


 “…the sound of those boots reverberated in my head for months, and then for years, and sometimes even still. This is the story of how we lived the war, and how I found my husband.”

These words, as they closed out Chapter 1, had me immediately falling in love with All The Light There Was. The love affair with Nancy Kricorian’s novel continued to the very end. Indeed, I was moved many times while reading, and finished the final chapters sitting in my car, waiting for my daughter to finish her cheer practice. In there, I was openly crying during these final chapters for Ms. Kricorian has written a beautifully moving tale.

Thank you to Net Galley, Houghton, Mifflin & Harcourt (and the Canadian publishing arm Thomas Allen & Son) and finally, Windsor Public Library for allowing me the joy of reading this book.  All The Light There Was is a wonderfully touching tale of an Armenian family surviving the Nazi occupation of Paris during WWII.

All the Light There Was is the story of an Armenian family’s struggle to survive the Nazi occupation of Paris in the 1940s—a lyrical, finely wrought tale of loyalty, love, and the many faces of resistance.

On the day the Nazis march down the rue de Belleville, fourteen-year-old Maral Pegorian is living with her family in Paris; like many other Armenians who survived the genocide in their homeland, they have come to Paris to build a new life. The adults immediately set about gathering food and provisions, bracing for the deprivation they know all too well. But the children—Maral, her brother Missak, and their close friend Zaven—are spurred to action of another sort, finding secret and not-so-secret ways to resist their oppressors. Only when Zaven flees with his brother Barkev to avoid conscription does Maral realize that the Occupation is not simply a temporary outrage to be endured. After many fraught months, just one brother returns, changing the contours of Maral’s world completely.

So, try as I may, I have been unable to give up Goodreads. So yes, I did venture on the site to read other reader’s comments/reviews about the book, while I was reading. However, I cannot say I agree with many of these comments, especially those calling the book predictable and shallow? Really? Were we reading the same book? I felt nothing of the sort while reading. Instead, I was completely engaged and unable to put the book down.

Was it predictable due to the love story/path Maral was on to marry her husband? Not particularly.  How many women must have been betrothed to men that went off to war, never to return? I felt the story of Maral’s love and devotion for Zaven incredibly touching and very emotional. The story of how Maral mourns the loss of Zaven when he first leaves and then when he does not return, but also when she embraces her role  of duty and honour when she then marries his brother Barkev was incredibly emotional and really tugged at my heart. I felt it perfectly detailed how Maral was torn by her decision to stay true to Zaven and also Barkev when a dashing, wonderful man named Andon comes in to her life. Andon keeps true and waits patiently for Maral as she struggles between duty and true love.

Is it due to the part of the story where this Armenian family saved their neighbour’s young girl from the fate that awaited her Jewish parents? Well of course we’ve read a number of WWII stories where the heroic and unselfish acts that some braved in order to save the Jews from their horrific end. All The Light There Was wonderfully blended this aspect of Maral’s story. It was incredibly genuine, touching and very emotional, in my opinion. As well,  the characters in this novel were perfectly rendered. So much so that they continue to haunt my thoughts.

Truthfully, I haven’t really been able to become involved in another book following the end of All The Light There Was because it had such a powerful impact on me. I absolutely loved it, it was a beautiful and heartfelt story of a family struggling to endure daily life during Nazi occupation. 4  stars. A Literary Hoarders Approved Read for certain. I also learned a great deal about the Armenian people and how they were affected by the war and of their way of life, traditions and the many wonderful Armenian proverbs.