All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See

A Novel

Book - 2014
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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: First edition.
ISBN: 9781476746586
Characteristics: 531 pages ; 24 cm

Opinion

From Library Staff

Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, 2015.

This is a story that jumps back and forth between time/place/people, which makes it all the more compelling to read. It is a beautifully told story that takes place in Germany and France before and during WW II. It goes back and forth between the lives of Marie-Laure, a blind French girl, and Wer... Read More »


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w
wilyman
Oct 06, 2020

What an achievement! One of those books you read more slowly as you near the end. You don't want it to be over. Some of Doerr's descriptive paragraphs are so lyrical, so original, so evocative, that they could stand alone as poems. What the reader should understand from this story is how human brutality and compassion can exist side by side, but that redemption remains a possibility. Hence there is hope. The characterization is wonderfully wrought. Marie-Laure and Werner have been given life, as well as many other minor characters. This novel might be evidence that great writers are those who do not begrudge taking years to arrive at the goal of near perfection. I've added this novel to a short list that I thus categorize.

c
celiawhite99
Sep 29, 2020

Great WWII novel-very different perspective too

m
meghan_ang
Sep 28, 2020

I've read this through twice and it continues to be one of my favourite stories. The lives of the two children are expertly told and intertwined in a way that feels like only you can see their special bond and the ways in which people can touch each other's lives even if just for a moment.

a
Alpha_zzz
Sep 06, 2020

A great storyline. Great characterization. Not a real captivating read, however. Perhaps because of its length?

t
tracycherry
Aug 27, 2020

Lives collide but starts slow. Nice depiction of WWII from the inside.

a
anne1212li
Aug 24, 2020

This novel is an absolute must-read! Right from the start, it was captivating. The book itself brilliantly portrays the horrors of WW2 and the devastation caused by it. Werner, a gifted albino genius with a knack for assembling radios and transmitters, is a German orphanage boy sent to become a Nazi. Marie-Laurie, a blind French girl with a secret within the house within the house, is constantly revolving around the French-resistance. This book is mainly written between these two perspectives with a few in between. The story shows how devastatingly cruel the Germans are while also showing their innerly-good human nature. In my eyes, it doesn't show too much of the French Resistance and what it did, same with the men going onto the front-line for the Germans. It cannot connect with the audience and readers and you feel numb as you read about bombings. Emotions like fear and hurt are scarce and hard to understand for readers. However, it is well written with good analogies.

SnoIsleLib_JordanF Aug 21, 2020

This is a beautiful character driven story. I love that there is 2 stories simultaneously going on and at the end they converge. I also love that I can feel the emotion behind each word the author uses. If you are a fan of WWII historical fiction this is a must read.

j
jschone
Jul 25, 2020

One of my absolute favourites

LPL_SarahM Jul 20, 2020

This is one of those books that I checked out a few times, never got around to reading, returned because it had a waiting list, repeat. I FINALLY read it this time around and it was one of the best books I have ever read. Absolutely loved it.

a
AlexaLe
Jul 18, 2020

There are certain stories that stick with readers long after the book has ended. The award-winning novel All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is one of those. Set in France and Germany during World War II, the book details the separate lives of two teenagers, Marie-Laure and Werner. Marie-Laure lives in France during these trying times, struggling to survive as a blind girl with the absence of her family. Werner is a young orphan with the impressive ability to fix a variety of objects, who is later chosen to fight against the resistance. The novel tells of their individual struggles in their respective locations in a haunting retelling of events, until their paths finally cross in an unexpected way.

This is an absolutely beautiful book that I highly recommend. Often times, a story is told from one perspective, so we only see one view on a situation. However, this novel manages to capture both sides from the point of view of teenagers, something that is lacking in many historical fiction stories. I think it is important to view things from different angles, as it allows you to consider a new perspective and ultimately, understand another person better. The novel does an amazing job of exemplifying this, a lesson that is applicable to many situations. The tumultuous journey filled with startling metaphors and striking imagery has the ability to evoke a spectrum of emotions, as it is filled with humor, love, and tragedy. It manages to be a story that can make you smile but at the same time causes your heart to break at the horrific outcomes of this war. This is a great book about a situation that many can sympathize with, regardless of age or opinion.

Age rating: 14+
Star rating: 5 stars

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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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d
DonHow
Apr 22, 2020

This novel lends itself well to readers who appreciate rich description and a compelling plot, making it ideal for a book club. Exquisite attention to detail lends itself to note-taking of passages that can be enjoyed over and over, and the plot itself brings forward many possible interpretations, depending on how the reader ‘sees’ this world.

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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white_rabbit_1022
Jan 28, 2020

white_rabbit_1022 thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over

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rebecacelest
May 19, 2019

rebecacelest thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

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taupe_skunk_4
Aug 27, 2016

taupe_skunk_4 thinks this title is suitable for 10 years and over

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