Jewel protects blind girl. WW2 begins.

The Blurb:

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. 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 in June of 1940, 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’s.

Release Date: 6 May 2014

The Review:

I chose this stand-alone book in my local book store after being entranced by the beautiful cover and immediately spent my voucher to buy it. Little did I know I was soon to be opening the cover of one of the greatest novels I have ever read.

The plot was amazing. I went into the book thinking that I knew what the end would be but I was wrong. It was very unexpected. All The Light was set in 1944 in the midst of the German occupation of France. It is primarily historical fiction but has elements of fantasy with a cursed jewel called the Sea of Flames. The overarching plot was centered around the theme of light and good always triumphing. The protagonists paths of life are so different and their lives interconnect in the most interesting way.

The characters were original and weren’t perfect but both had struggles of there own. Marie-Laure was a relatable character even though she was from the 1940s. Having become blind at the age of 7 she experienced her world in a way through texture and touch. The author specifically wrote her chapters in a way where other senses such as sound and touch were predominant. She and her father were characters that had to adapt to their environment, having to move to Saint-Malo as Paris got taken over by the Germans. Also, the characters all engage in small acts of rebellion against evil in their world which contributed to the overarching themes.

Werner’s story is different and equally interesting. It is interesting to hear what a young German boy experienced and the pressures he had in joining the Hitler Youth. His sister Jutta has a different story where she copes with a life separate from her brother and unsure of what he is really going through. The characters all have their own stories and chapters which have titles connecting to the main idea of the chapter – which I love.

It was written in an enigmatic and beautiful style in a way that reflected the chapters main theme. I actually cried when coming to the end of this novel because I felt so close to the characters and didn’t want to say good bye. The prose was so delicate. Some people have reviewed this book saying that the delicate prose detracted to the fact that it was a WW2 story – but on the contrary, I say that that was a point of difference in fact the delicacy and beauty of the prose enabled me to understand the lives of the civilians at the time of such drama and importance.

I would recommend this book to ages 16+ as it contains the rawness of a time of war. It contains brutality of the opposing sides in the time of WW2. I would definitely recommend this book to first time historical fiction readers and all those wanting to experience such an awesome book that won the Goodreads choice awards for 2014 in Historical Fiction as well Pulitzer prize in 2015.

I am rating this book 5/5 as it was absolutely beautiful with delicate prose. One of my fav books.

Content Warning:

Ages 16+ as brutal war and abusive scenes, bloody/gory scene murder of a young girl, could trigger uncomfortable feelings.

What’s In a Name?

All the Light We Cannot See title can be taken in different ways being all the “light” as in the radio waves Werner can transmit on his radio and the light that Marie cannot see as she is blind. It could also be the good that goes unnoticed in the world amidst the evil.

Favorite Quote

Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.

the man on the radio

When I lost my sight, Werner, people said I was brave. When my father left, people said I was brave. But it is not bravery; I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don’t you do the same?”


Favorite Character

Marie and Werner were very intriguing characters and taught me a lot about whats really important in life. I particularly liked Uncle Etienne as he experienced a story arc of his own as he leaves the trauma of WW1 behind as he develops a fatherly relationship with Marie.

QFTR (Question for the Readers)

  • What do you think the title means?
  • Did the book end the way it thought it would?
  • How does the change in time setting change the way the book evolves? Did you like how the narrator jumps back and forth between time and narrator or did you find it distracting?

What did you think of All The Light? Is it one of your faves or did you find it a challenging read?

7 thoughts on “Book Review: All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr ft. the book I can’t stop talking about

  1. Lovely review. This isn’t an easy book, but I was so glad to have read it — especially since I read it with my book group, and there was so much to discuss and share.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great and comprehensive review.

    The author writes like an artisan. With short chapters and beautifully turned phrases, it’s a book that you can bite off small bits at a time.

    With growing tension, the book manages to paint a lucid picture of what it must be like living in a country occupied by an invading force. It left me truly sobered, but as in the above review, the ‘light’ of the individual characters shines in the deepening darkness.

    One thing I appreciated was how the author was never overly melodramatic when describing disturbing situations. So much of our popular media (film and TV) can be overly manipulative in attempting to make you feel a certain way. This leads to increasingly graphic content in order to attract an increasingly desensitised audience.

    This is the beauty of literature of this calibre. Doerr describes difficult events in such a way that gives you space to feel your own response. And a number of passages left me on the edge of tears – stunned by the devaluing of life that happens during wartime.

    “All the light we cannot see”? It is radio waves that draws two characters together. Yet one character cannot see – her blindness hiding all visible light from her. Even in times of deep darkness, small acts of unremarked kindness are like a ray of light.

    So a title with many layers of nuance!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Fantastic review, you have such as way of words! I have to agree with you the book is so knowingly paced. Yes some of the most distressing events of the book were less than a chapter, meaning we don’t have to keep reading and rereading the intense troubles of the characters. This book is certainly among my favorites because of the beauty of the way Doerr writes, so thoughtfully and delicate – the opposite in what we see in the media and some other Historical Fiction books set in wartime. The title – I saw the same way as you did. This book was a work of genius, no wonder it won so many prizes. Thank you for your comprehensive response.


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