All The Light We Cannot See


All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

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 (there are thousands of locks in the museum). 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, 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.1


All The Light We Cannot See is the book club book for March.  It is one of those books that catches your eye and you add it to your ever growing list, but I wasn’t able to get to it on my own.

Marie Laure loses her sight at a young age.  With the help of her loving father she navigates through her neighbourhood by studying a unique model made by her father.  The model portrays the houses in their neighbourhood down to the tree’s and sewers.  By studying and testing, Marie Laure is able to navigate her way to and from her home as well as the museum where her father works.  Before losing her sight, Marie Laure was able to explore the museum and it’s wonders.  After her sight was gone she explored life in a different way.  With feeling and sound, Marie Laure created a world with shapes and colors within her own mind.

When the war causes her and her father to seek refuge out of Paris, their journey brings them to a beautifully unique french town by the ocean.  Saint-Malo consisted of 865 buildings surrounded by tall walls and the ocean on three sides.  Within an old six story home, Marie Laure meets her strange uncle Etienne LeBlanc and the housemaid Madame Manec.  Etienne has lived within the walls of his home for many years, never leaving.  After the first world war and the loss of his brother, Etienne is haunted by spectral figures and the memories of his past.  With the use of an old radio and microphone, Etienne plays old records recorded by his brother and broadcasts educational children’s episodes to an unknown audience.

In Germany, a young boy named Werner with a strong curiosity of the world and a knack for mechanics, builds a radio.  Werner and his sister Jutta listen to whatever broadcasts they can in the middle of the night in their attic bedroom.  They hear news reports, music, and their favourite, a short series of educational recordings by an unknown french professor.  Werner’s tale gives a hidden look at the lives of children behind enemy lines.  The factory of soldier’s and the untold lives.

The devastating effects of war bring Werner and Marie-Laure’s paths to cross in an unlikely way.  With a legendary stone surrounded by a curse, All The Light We Cannot See takes us on a beautiful journey through a destructive war torn country.  Stories like these give life to the nameless individuals of different nationalities.  Each person had a role and although unspeakable acts took place, it is not often that there is a name, a face, or a life behind enemy lines.

Anthony Doerr uses the backdrop of a war torn country and gives glimpses, flashes, of life.  Beautiful prose surround intriguing characters, strange little model houses, and a stone with immense power.  It is these creative pieces of the puzzle that really drew me into the story.  I applaud Doerr’s artistic abilities when it comes to his writing, but I often wished I could use my fingers just like Marie-Laure, brush off the excess and dive into an unseen world.  The journey of a blind girl in such a terrifying time, a mysterious and gripping legend behind a beautiful stone and the strange and somewhat whimsical town of little puzzles and models.

All The Light We Cannot See is a must read for many different levels and tastes.  The novel is all encompassing for the varied tastes of historical fiction, adventure, war, poetry and a touch of whimsy.  All you have to do is close your eyes and look.


1. Book Summary Courtesy of Anthony Doerr’s webpage

One thought on “All The Light We Cannot See

  1. Thanks for sharing! I loved this book! If you’re ever interested in some other great book reviews and musings, be sure to follow! Thanks!!!

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