Book Reviews

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

All The Light We Cannot SeeFrom the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, a stunningly ambitious and beautiful novel about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Marie Laure lives with her father in Paris within walking distance of the Museum of Natural History where he works as the master of the locks (there are thousands of locks in the museum). When she is six, she goes blind, and her father builds her a model of their neighborhood, every house, every manhole, so she can memorize it with her fingers and navigate the real streets with her feet and cane. When the Germans occupy Paris, father and daughter flee to Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast, where Marie-Laure’s agoraphobic great uncle lives in a tall, narrow house by the sea wall.

In another world in Germany, an orphan boy, Werner, grows up with his younger sister, Jutta, both enchanted by a crude radio Werner finds. He becomes a master at building and fixing radios, a talent that wins him a place at an elite and brutal military academy and, ultimately, makes him a highly specialized tracker of the Resistance. Werner travels through the heart of Hitler Youth to the far-flung outskirts of Russia, and finally into Saint-Malo, where his path converges with Marie-Laure.

Doerr’s gorgeous combination of soaring imagination with observation is electric. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another. Ten years in the writing, All the Light We Cannot See is his most ambitious and dazzling work.” ~Goodreads


For Doerr, “a believable story accomplishes two things: it transports readers, and it teaches them something”. -Publisher’s Weekly

All The Light We Cannot See (May 6, 2014) is everything I look for when Literary Fiction collides with Historical Fiction. When I pick up a book that is labeled Historical Fiction, I know I am going to be schooled and enveloped in a time that is foreign to me. History books only present the facts. When a novel, such as this, revisits the horrific treatment of people during World War II but then weaves in a powerful story of survival, it’s a winner to me.

The synopsis does a nice job of explaining what the reader is in for when opening this book.  What it doesn’t relay is the beautifully written and detailed imagery by Doerr. It’s as if the book was narrated for a person who is blind with descriptive details and emotions that pulse on the page. And it’s not only historical elements that carry this book. The relationships between the all the characters is my favorite and one that I won’t soon forget. The story line that strangers are connected in some way is a compelling yarn. One that I immensely favor.

This is one of those books that cries out “Book Club Pick”. Books that are challenging for me to review are the ones that have to unfold naturally to a new reader. Never the one to be a story spoiler, I just say “READ THIS!” Even if you don’t love the story as much as I do, it will transport you from your everyday and finish the story a different person from when you started.

“Here’s what I mean by the miracle of language. When you’re falling into a good book, exactly as you might fall into a dream, a little conduit opens, a passageway between a reader’s heart and a writer’s, a connection that transcends the barriers of continents and generations and even death … And here’s the magic. You’re different. You can never go back to being exactly the same person you were before you disappeared into that book.”
[Why Reading is Dangerous, Spirit Magazine (Southwest Airlines), February 2008]” 

― Anthony Doerr

*Thank you to Scribner, A Division of Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for the advance, uncorrected reader’s proof. I was not compensated or required to review this title.

To learn more about Anthony Doerr, this title, other books or upcoming events, please visit his site here. 

4 thoughts on “All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

  1. I’ve seen a lot of reviews for this one lately and I really want to read it for myself. I’m starting a new book club, so maybe I can consider it for that purpose, since you think it’s a perfect book club choice.

  2. Pingback: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr | River City Reading

  3. Pingback: Book Review: All the Light We Cannot See | Bookish Tendencies

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