All the Light We Cannot See

By Anthony Doerr,

Book cover of All the Light We Cannot See

Book description


A beautiful, stunningly ambitious novel about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation…

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Why read it?

40 authors picked All the Light We Cannot See as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

This book has everything I look for in great storytelling in spades: real people doing their best to cope with extraordinary circumstances, masterfully crafted by an author who loves his work.

Some will call this a historical novel; some will pigeonhole it as a war novel. In my view, it easily exceeds all such classifications. It is an incredible piece of work. I use this book for reference, to remind me how it’s done. 

From Michael's list on brilliant genre defying storytelling.

I loved this book because it’s a World War II story (my favorite time period), which I can’t get enough of, and its protagonist, Marie-Laure, is a young blind girl. By the time she’s twelve, she has learned to navigate Nazi-occupied Paris from a miniature of the city her father has built for her.

This is a girl with many fears, her blindness being just one, but she pushes through them all in order to help her country overcome its worst nightmare. Her bravery is off the charts!

I was captivated by this powerful novel, which tells the story of a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France.

I especially liked the way Doerr weaves scientific and philosophical references to light, to seeing, and not seeing into the story. I loved the two main characters, Parisian Marie-Laure, who has been blind since she was six years old, and a German orphan called Werner, who is a member of the Hitler Youth.

I was especially gripped by Marie and her father, Daniel’s escape from Paris ahead of the German invasion, and the scenes…

From Simon's list on World War 2 love stories.

Last summer, I visited Saint-Malo in Brittany, France, an extraordinary walled city on the Atlantic Coast where this beautiful novel is set.

Wars breed everyday heroes, and this book introduces us to one, the blind, young Marie-Laure. Despite Saint-Malo being under German occupation in WW2, she courageously risks her own life by using a radio to send daily dispatches from her attic to the Allied Forces. Her stoic heroism and valuable intelligence ultimately play a pivotal role in the Allies liberating Saint-Malo and afterward, the whole of France.

A well-deserved international bestseller, the book powerfully underscores the notion that ordinary…

Doris Lessing said, "There is no doubt fiction makes a better job of the truth." Despite the American author not taking the language barriers into account between his French and German characters, I found it a fascinating and convincing novel, nevertheless.

His imagination, creating the characters within their history, and his skill in developing the scenes, which slowly rose to a climax, made me read on without taking a break.

Doerr’s novel showed that humans are so varied in character that no prediction can be made about their actions; it gave me the confidence to create my novel about…

An absolute classic, the unusual heroine is blind, and yet, rather than make Marie-Laure vulnerable, her lack of sight empowers her because it heightens her other senses.

Tense, heart-wrenching, and timeless. I love that the novel is so multi-layered with its dual character points of view. So much research has gone into every aspect, yet it never weighs too heavily on the story, and the writing is sublime.

From Tessa's list on WW2 novels featuring loners we love.

In the maze of books about war I’d been reading all year while researching my next novel, Anthony Doerr’s shone a bright light on the human condition with his complicated, poignant story about two young people caught up in the horrors of war who manage against the odds to preserve their humanity.

The novel’s omniscient narrator allowed me to enter the perspectives and experience the motivations and emotions of a wide cast of characters, not all of them likable, in the vividly imagined setting of occupied France in the latter part of World War II. 

It’s a long book, but…

I always read fiction. It is a great coping skill that I teach my clients when they are struggling with anxiety.

We need an escape that is not a vice. Reading novels does that. It engages the mind but it is relaxing. I personally love getting lost in someone else’s story. This book inspired me hearing about Marie-Laure’s bravery to take the risks she did during the war. I always wonder if I would be that brave.

Perhaps, it’s hard to imagine how we would feel if we had nothing to lose. It makes me not sweat the small stuff.…

Wow! It is no wonder that this was another Pulitzer Prize winner. 

It’s a slow-burning thriller with secrets as well as historical currents that carry its multifaceted characters in sometimes surprising directions. A blind girl fleeing Paris to St Malo becomes part of the French resistance. An orphan becomes a Nazi soldier tasked with geo-tracing enemy radio signals.

The story is deep and satisfying, with a narrative that brings characters’ lives together with just the right amount of foreshadowing and flashback, and it keeps you riveted. You will turn back to page one after you read the last.  

I love this book so much I would be tempted to include it on any list, no matter the theme.

Luckily, I don’t have to stretch this theme to recommend this masterful novel. Indeed, one part of many compelling elements that drive this novel forward is the reader’s lingering question regarding what feels inevitable: “When will these two lives converge?”

It is the story of a blind French girl and an orphaned Nazi conscript on opposite sides of the German occupation of France. As intricate in its plot as it is in its stunning imagery, this is a rare novel,…

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