All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See

A Novel

Book - 2014 | 1st Scribner hardcover ed.
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WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE
From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the beautiful, stunningly ambitious instant New York Times bestseller 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 near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure's reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum's most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure's converge.

Doerr's "stunning sense of physical detail and gorgeous metaphors" ( San Francisco Chronicle ) are dazzling. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, he illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another. Ten years in the writing, a National Book Award finalist, All the Light We Cannot See is a magnificent, deeply moving novel from a writer "whose sentences never fail to thrill" ( Los Angeles Times ).
Publisher: New York : Scribner, 2014.
Edition: 1st Scribner hardcover ed.
ISBN: 9781476746586
1476746583
Branch Call Number: FIC Doerr
Characteristics: 531 pages

Opinion

From Library Staff

A powerful story, lyrical prose and a strong historical backing combine to give All the Light We Cannot See broad appeal.


From the critics


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m
miketany
Nov 28, 2018

This book was simply difficult to follow and enjoy. It was captivating at some parts, particularly the climax and denouement. Anthony does not fail to create interesting characters, especially Werner. I liked Werner's backstory and how he joins Hitler Youth, being realistic for a boy so talented with mathematics and radios. I admire how fluidly Anthony is able to transfer point of views chapter by chapter, as each chapter accommodates a cliff-hanger and makes you long for more in the book.
Anthony put lots of effort into signifying the nostalgia people get when they remember what life was like before wartime situations, and how much they long for it to over. This is shown when Werner hears what he heard as a child, "Claire de Lune", and he felt a longing for the time in his life when did not have to worry about war and surviving. I dislike how the author leaves out the effects of war in different towns, as Wehrmacht forces were constantly looting homes and stores, taking the supplies and re-directing it toward the war effort. I think the author sort of veers away from the main idea near the middle of the book and goes back to it near the end, which really diffuses the sharpness of the point the book is trying to make.
I rated this a 8/10 because the author makes an attempt at making a clear and powerful message while hiding it between the lines, but it is difficult to see without really digging deep and considering the underlying meaning in every word Anthony writes.

At the outbreak of World War 2, the blind Marie-Laure and her father escape the city to the coastal town of Saint-Malo to seek safety with her Uncle. Her story is contrasted by Werner the German orphan who is recruited into the German army because of his abilities with radios. The stories of Marie-Laure and Werner bounce back and forth between the chapters until they finally converge. What I liked most about this story was the detail into Marie-Laure’s life. The way her father designed a scale model of their neighborhood so she could memorize routes and landmarks to help her get around on her own. (Submitted by Braden)

j
j_schill
Oct 28, 2018

Absolutely beautiful piece of work. The first book that has ever brought me to tears.

c
craiglong20017
Oct 08, 2018

From "40 Contemporary Books Everyone Should Read"

l
leahrei
Sep 24, 2018

Maybe because the main character, Marie-Laure, is blind, the picture this author's words paint are even more magnificent. You can easily envision the miniature city of Paris her father makes for her to find her way around, and the grotto where she escapes to feel the water on her feet and the muscles on the wall. Werner, the other main character, is a German boy who has a talent for radio mechanics. This makes him a prime recruit for the Hitler Youth. Not being a trigonometry student, I learned about triangulation (which led to a discussion of how it's used today in GPS). Then there is the jeweler who is trying to find the lost rare stone. It all makes for a moving story of how war affects people's lives and how difficult it is rise above their circumstances. But, sometimes they can.

i
ivych99
Sep 18, 2018

This was beautifully crafted, and I loved every single page of it. The historical details, characters, everything! Need more books like this in my life.

m
Midge_0
Sep 10, 2018

Excellent book - interesting characters - detail descriptions
Weaving the stories of the two main characters is amazing.

Recommend it highly -- but read it carefully to put all the parts together and the time frame changes as well the locations as the story develops.

RogerDeBlanck Jul 27, 2018

Marvel at the details, admire the beauty, and feel both bereft and euphoric with emotion. Anthony Doerr’s epic World War II novel is a spellbinding experience that confirms belief in the goodness of the human spirit. The story charts the paths of two extraordinary young characters: Marie-Laure LeBlanc, a blind fourteen-year old French girl, and Werner Pfennig, a sixteen-year old German boy conscripted into a Nazi Youth group. How their fates merge is enough to keep you riveted, but the novel is so much more. Doerr incorporates an astonishing range of knowledge into the narrative. He is an expert on topics as diverse as gems, seashells, ocean currents, cloud formations, and radio transmissions, to highlight merely a few. Equally impressive is the lushness of the prose he employs in every sentence. He elevates language to the highest level of poetics and lyricism. Remarkable in scope and gorgeous in construction, All the Light We Cannot See is a masterful literary achievement.

m
Manuel
Jun 26, 2018

This is a very large, sensitive historical fiction novel, with lots of character development. It takes place in France and Germany and the time length is from before WW II to 2014. Doer could have written a shorter story, as many of the descriptions are too lengthy. It shifts among several viewpoints and occasionally in time. I appreciated the short chapters.

l
louisahe87
Jun 08, 2018

Anthony Doerr wrote with an eye for detail that heightened your imagination as you journeyed with each character. I found it slow to start but the last 100 pages captured my mind and heart wholly. There were moments in this book that were so emotionally charged that I remember them as if I saw them. I thought it was really interesting to actually see myself in each characters shoes no matter the side they fell on. It did make me question, does it romanticize tragedy or does it help us to remember well?

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Quotes

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s
shayshortt
Jan 12, 2017

Time is a slippery thing: lose hold of it once, and its string might sail out of your hands forever.

TSCPL_ChrisB Jun 06, 2016

But it is not bravery; I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don't you do the same?

j
jimg2000
Mar 15, 2016

The ending thought:
And is it so hard to believe that souls might also travel those paths? That her father and Etienne and Madame Manec and the German boy named Werner Pfennig might harry the sky in flocks, like egrets, like terns, like starlings? That great shuttles of souls might fly about, faded but audible if you listen closely enough? They flow above the chimneys, ride the sidewalks, slip through your jacket and shirt and breastbone and lungs, and pass out through the other side, the air a library and the record of every life lived, every sentence spoken, every word transmitted still reverberating within it. Every hour, she thinks, someone for whom the war was memory falls out of the world. We rise again in the grass. In the flowers. In songs.

j
jimg2000
Mar 15, 2016

At her feet, the snails go about their work: chewing, scavenging, sleeping. Their mouths, Etienne has taught her, contain something like thirty teeth per row, eighty rows of teeth, two and a half thousand teeth per snail, grazing, scratching, rasping.
===
Etienne knew artillerymen who could peer through field glasses and discern their shells’ damage by the colors thrown skyward. Gray was stone. Brown was soil. Pink was flesh.
===
All your life you wait, and then it finally comes, and are you ready?
===
To men like that, time was a surfeit, a barrel they watched slowly drain. When really, he thinks, it’s a glowing puddle you carry in your hands; you should spend all your energy protecting it. Fighting for it. Working so hard not to spill one single drop.
===
“Mutti, what goes around the world but stays in a corner?”
“I don’t know, Max.”
“A postage stamp.

j
jimg2000
Mar 15, 2016

“Is it right,” Jutta says, “to do something only because everyone else is doing it?”
===
“Did you know,” says Marie-Laure, “that the chance of being hit by lightning is one in one million? Dr. Geffard taught me that.” “In one year or in one lifetime?” “I’m not sure.” “You should have asked.”
===
“Your problem, Werner,” says Frederick, “is that you still believe you own your life.”
===
Madame Ruelle says, “So the Gautier girl wants to get married. The family has to melt all its jewelry to get the gold for the wedding ring. The gold gets taxed thirty percent by occupation authorities. Then the jeweler’s work is taxed another thirty percent. By the time they’ve paid him, there’s no ring left!”
===
“But minds are not to be trusted. Minds are always drifting toward ambiguity, toward questions, when what you really need is certainty. Purpose. Clarity. Do not trust your minds.”

j
jimg2000
Mar 15, 2016

...It’s not a person you wish to fight, Madame, it’s a system. How do you fight a system?” “You try.”
===
“Can deaf people hear their heartbeat, Frau Elena?”
“Why doesn’t glue stick to the inside of the bottle, Frau Elena?”
===
...plants eat light, in much the way we eat food.
===
What do we call visible light? We call it color. But the electromagnetic spectrum runs to zero in one direction and infinity in the other, so really, children, mathematically, all of light is invisible.
===
Open your eyes, concludes the man, and see what you can with them before they close forever,...
===
There are ninety-six thousand kilometers of blood vessels in the human body, children! Almost enough to wind around the earth two and a half times . . .

j
jimg2000
Mar 15, 2016

Seems the entire book has been quoted in goodreads, but may be exceptions:
The hotel’s fourth floor, where garden rooms with French balconies open directly onto the ramparts, has become home to an aging high-velocity anti-air gun called an 88 that can fire twenty-one-and-a-half-pound shells nine miles.
===
Saint-Malo --- Up and down the lanes, the last unevacuated townspeople wake, groan, sigh. Spinsters, prostitutes, men over sixty. Procrastinators, collaborators, disbelievers, drunks. Nuns of every order. The poor. The stubborn. The blind.
===
Marie-Laure imagines the electromagnetic waves traveling into and out of Michel’s machine, bending around them, just as Etienne used to describe, except now a thousand times more crisscross the air than when he lived—maybe a million times more. Torrents of text conversations, tides of cell conversations, of television programs, of e-mail, vast networks of fiber and wire interlaced above and beneath the city, passing through buildings, ...

m
Magicworld
Aug 21, 2015

“Your problem, Werner,” says Frederick, “is that you still believe you own your life.”

m
Magicworld
Aug 21, 2015

“Time is a slippery thing: lose hold of it once, and its string might sail out of your hands forever.”

M_ALCOTT May 21, 2015

" We all come into existence as a single cell, smaller than a speck of dust. Much smaller. Divide. Multiply. Add and subtract. Matter changes hands, atoms flow in and out, molecules pivot, proteins stitch together, mitochondria send out their oxidative dictates; we begin as a microscopic electrical swarm. The lungs the brain the heart. Forty weeks later, six trillion cells get crushed in the vise of our mother's birth canal and we howl. Then the world starts in on us."-excerpt from "All the Light We Cannot See"

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Summary

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a
anneholmquist
Dec 04, 2017

blind jewish girl in WWII, has blue diamond verybody is looking for. Intersects with young German wunderkind.

l
Liber_vermis
May 19, 2017

This novel has an "X" shaped plot. One leg follows the life of orphan Werner Pfennig who hopes to escape the poor, short life of a coal miner in western Germany. His quick-minded understanding of radio technology wins entry to a Nazi youth training school. He spends the Second World War pinpointing and destroying clandestine radio transmitters. The other leg of the plot follows the life of Marie-Laure LeBlanc, a blind girl, who thrives in the Museum of Natural History in Paris where her father works. Forced to flee Paris by the invading Germans, the two narratives cross on a late summer day in 1944.

s
shayshortt
Jan 12, 2017

In 1934, at the age of six, Marie-Laure LeBlanc lost her eyesight. Her father, Daniel LeBlanc, is a locksmith at the Museum of Natural History in Paris. He builds Marie-Laure a scale model of their neighbourhood to help her navigate, and she spends her days with him at the Museum, reading Jules Verne in Braille. But their peaceful life is upset by the German invasion, and they flee the Nazi occupation of Paris, taking refuge in the coastal town of Saint-Malo. Unbeknownst to Marie-Laure, the Museum has entrusted her father with an item from its collection. What Daniel LeBlanc does not know is if it is the real artefact, or one of the three duplicates that was made to serve as a decoy. Meanwhile, in Germany, Werner Pfennig is orphan who lost his mother to illness and his father to the coal mines of Zollverein. He has a passion for radios and math. When war comes, these skills draw him to the attention of the Reich, and he is selected to attend a special military prep school where talented young Germans are indoctrinated into National Socialism.

m
maggielo
Aug 19, 2015

yng girl goes blind, flees nazis, meets orphan

n
novelust
Aug 10, 2015

All the Light We Cannot See is the beautiful story, set in WWII, of how the lives a blind French girl and orphan German soldier move slowly closer to one another and are destined to collide.

p
pattyloucor67
May 13, 2015

What an excellent book! At first, the thought of reading 500+ pages seemed daunting! But, Anthony Doerr constructs a beautiful work (with short chapters) and creates characters that endear themselves to you - I found I had trouble putting the book down. The story takes place during WWII, is told through the eyes of a blind French girl and a teenage Boy whose lives take different courses. Werner Pfennig, an orphan, and his sister survive in a coal-mining complex. It is Werner's exceptional aptitude for making and fixing radios that land him in a prestigious Reich military school. In Paris, Marie-Laure LeBlanc lives with her father, a locksmith employed at the Natural HistoryMuseum. Being blind, Marie-Laure spend her days with her father, learning from the feel of shells and organisms. As the war escalates, Marie and her father must flee Paris and love with an uncle in Saint-Malo, a town along the Atlantic Ocean. The recurring element of a fabulous diamond being pursued by the Nazis and Marie-Laure's father's role in keeping it out the their hands adds suspense. I loved how the lives of the two main characters develop, despite the desolation of the war - and how these two lives interesect, however briefly. A very worthwhile read!

b
bixby
Jun 23, 2014

1934-1944 France
A blind girl trying to survive the German occupation and Allied shelling of Saint Malo on the coast of France, a young, reluctant German soldier tasked with finding radio transmissions, and a German officer searching for a diamond which he believes will cure his illness.....fantastic manipulation of characters and events to bring them and the war to an end.

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t
taupe_skunk_4
Aug 27, 2016

taupe_skunk_4 thinks this title is suitable for 10 years and over

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