This post contains affiliate links. I read All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr several years ago. I remembered that this Pulitizer prize winning book left me spellbound, and I remembered who the two main characters were, but I couldn’t remember much more. However, I’ve been in a reading funk lately. Nothing was catching my interest, so I decided to reread this book. Once again, it transported me. I love this book!
About All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
The story has two primary characters–Marie Laure and Werner.
Marie Laure resides in Paris, France with her father. She’s been blind since she was 6, but her devoted father painstakingly carves houses, buildings, and streets so Marie Laure can learn the way around her neighborhood. With the model he creates and his patience as he takes her on walks and then asks her to guide him back home, she becomes self-sufficient. Her life is a pleasant one. She accompanies her father to his job at a museum where he is the locksmith. Many different people at the museum spend time with Marie Laure and teach her science.
However, once the Germans are on their way, Marie Laure’s pleasant life is toppled. She and her father are on the run to evacuate Paris. Unbeknownst to her, her father is caring the most precious jewel the museum owns–The Sea of Flames. Or is he? Four individuals are caring the stone–one has the true stone, and the other three carry the imitation. After a long, arduous journey, Marie Laure and her father arrive at her great uncle’s house.
Werner grows up in a German orphanage with his sister. One day, he and his sister find a radio on the street, and Werner sets out to fix it. Soon, Werner can fix any radio, and his help later becomes essential to the Nazis.
He and his sister stay up late every night listening to a science program hosted by a Frenchman. Werner can understand the show because the matron of the orphanage is from France. Werner and his sister are spellbound until the show suddenly stops broadcasting.
Soon, both Werner and Marie Laure are teenagers swept up in World War II in ways that I can’t explain without giving away much of the story.
My Thoughts on All The Light We Cannot See
This is a timeless book. Both times I read it, I found myself aching for both sensitive Werner and courageous Marie Laure. I have read some reviews that have chastised Doerr for making Werner a sympathetic Nazi character, but I don’t have a problem with it. I’m sure that there were Nazis who had little choice in their situation and wished that they weren’t part of what was occurring. (I say this mainly because Werner was quite young in this book and also did not have the protection of a family.)
This is one book where I desperately wished the ending was different. However, I see that the way Doerr ended the book is probably the most likely scenario. Not every story can end with a happy ending.
I give All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr 5 out of 5 stars on the Mom’s Plans’ scale. If you like books centered around World War II, you will likely enjoy this book.
Other World War II Books I Love