(Review) All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Publication Date: May 2014.
Publisher: Scribner. 
Genre: Historical fiction, France, World War II.
Pages: 544.
Source: Self-purchase.
Rating: 4 stars for very good.

A National Book Award finalist.
All The Light We Cannot See won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

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Marie-Laure LeBlanc is blind. She is age 12 when the story begins. She and her father, a locksmith, leave Paris, France, when the Occupation of the Nazi's began. They travel to Saint-Malo, a port city in Brittany, France. Her father has a priceless and hidden jewel. They live with an eccentric uncle.
An orphaned German boy named Werner Pfennig becomes a cadet at a school in Germany. He has a gift for math and understanding radios.
Marie-Laure and Werner's paths will cross in 1944.

My Thoughts:
I loved the idea of the book more than the story itself.
I loved what I'd heard about the book more than reading it.
I've given the book 4 stars for very good. I did not feel it was a 5 star book for excellent.

  • The main reason is the jumping back and forth and in between with the time periods. I was able to keep up with the time periods, but the chapters are short, sometimes two pages. When I felt apart of one period in time (apart of the story, invested), it stopped, jumping to another time period. I needed a longer pause in one place to view the characters and the present story.  
  • The second reason for giving All The Light We Cannot See 4 stars is the story-line is not wrapped up in a way I always understood. I backed up and reread chapters asking myself, what is really going on and am I missing something.  
The story and characters are memorable and haunting. 
The characters are living during a historical event they have no voice or power to control or escape. 
There is symbolism in the story: 
  • Marie-Laure and Werner are teenagers in 1944. Youth is like spring. But war is a bleak, frozen, barren winter. 
  • The priceless gem reminds me of the priceless human life. 
  • The fortified city of Saint-Malo is liken to a city set apart, and Marie-Laure is like the princess of the city (a very unlikely princess) who is destined for a great task. On the other hand, the Nazi army is the dragon swooping in to devour.  
All The Light We Cannot See is a coming of age story. Two youths with all their lives before them, yet make significant choices. Life-altering choices. 


  1. This would be a wonderful novel for high school study. Charcaters are not black and white. There is a complexity to this novel that would lead to lively discussions. It brings to life the impact of World War II on common people, giving students the opportunity to view the events of the era from a new perspective. I highly, highly recommend this novel.

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  2. I am a crusty old man who is tough as nails. Yet I have just finished this book with tears in my eyes. I understand that the author took ten years to write it. All I can say that it was ten years well spent. It is lyrical, evocative and places the reader right there alongside Marie, her father,Werner, Etienne, Madame Manec, etc.. This book will stay with me for a long time.

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