All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See

A Novel

Book - 2014
Average Rating:
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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. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind. 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. They carry with them perhaps the museum's most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a German mining town, an orphan named Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. He becomes expert at fixing these new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the Resistance. Increasingly 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 Scribner hardcover edition.
ISBN: 9781476746593
1476746591
9781476746586
1476746583
Branch Call Number: DOERR A
Characteristics: 531 pages ; 24 cm.

Opinion

From Library Staff

List - Polli Recommends
LPL_PolliK Sep 06, 2016

A gorgeous read, you'll want to stop and re-read passages and find someone to read them to.

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LPL_PolliK May 26, 2015

Gorgeously written, illuminating and haunting. I wanted to grab quote after quote and share these beautiful gems with everyone I know, but there were too many to count. The language will wrap you up, but so will the unique storytelling that pushes you on and on, as you are sure that Werner and Ma... Read More »


From the critics


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s
smiliesar
Nov 20, 2017

Such a great book that captures the thoughts of multiple sides during World War 2

r
rubyal32
Oct 30, 2017

Fantastic read. One of the best historical fiction novels I've read. I found it to be a book that was hard to put down, and fell in love with both main characters. A book I will recommend to all avid readers.

h
hollybell
Oct 17, 2017

I don't know how this book won a Pulitzer Prize. I thought it was WAY too long and ponderous and the back and forth between story lines and time frames did not contribute to the story. By the final third I was itching for the book to end and put me and the characters out of their misery. And it doesn't really end, it just kind of dribbles away. It also suffers from the
Forest Gump effect of creating a character with a physical disability who is extraordinary in all other ways -- extra smart, extra caring, extra brave. Disappointing.

b
bell_ugh
Oct 15, 2017

Amazing synopsis, intriguing cover, anticlimactic and slow story. I had to force myself to read this book after the first 200 pages (out of 531!). It took me 2 months to finish and my favorite character was killed off. Isn't that great?

The rising action/main story was very very VERY slow and was anticlimactic (pretty much 80% of the book). There were a lot of unnecessary chapters and segments that were repetitive of the last. I will admit that All the Light We Cannot See had good falling action (10% of the book) since it was super emotional. It was also the point where the story ties a clean knot between the character development and plot. I felt like the book would be better if the end of the book was the falling action instead of the character epilogue (the last 10%). All the Light We Cannot See is more of a character study, like Six of Crows, if you have read that.

vpazreads Oct 05, 2017

Beautiful writing and compelling story. The very end, which updated the story in vignettes from 1974 and 2014, felt jarring compared to the lyrical prose of the WWII section.

e
Emmapaw257
Sep 22, 2017

I loved the way this book brought on an entirely new perspective to WW2, with the use of a 2 perspective narrative Dorr was able to perfectly capture the ignorance of both the germans and those under rule of Germany. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for an intelligent and meaningful read.

a
ace_combs
Aug 13, 2017

On of those books you hear so much praise for you think it can't live up to the hype. For me, it did and more. Doerr blends science and art, poetry and prose, untrammeled beauty and the horror of war into a riveting book that serves up its short chapters like confections. I found myself late at night saying, "Well, just one more."

Marie-Laure is the solid grounded center around which the book revolves and her blindness doesn't make her a cipher or unnaturally noble--she's a real kid who simply deals with her lot in life and tries to survive and take what joys she can. At the same time, her tenous situation is made all the more dangerous by being caught in a war zone being fought over by the Allies and Axis. There are some rich poetic moments and some grisly ones--the author doesn't hold back. In a book where hiding is integral to the story, nothing is hidden from the reader.

e
eringobraugh18
Aug 11, 2017

Beautifully written, couldn't put it down.

k
kafkakat
Aug 07, 2017

It was just okay...definitely had some inventive high points but it didn't quite hold me...I wanted to really love it...

a
aelchaar
Aug 01, 2017

Beautifully written.

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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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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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taupe_skunk_4
Aug 27, 2016

taupe_skunk_4 thinks this title is suitable for 10 years and over

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