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?

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

Set during the Nazi occupation of France during World War II, Doerr’s stunningly lyrical novel tells the story of twelve-year-old Marie-Laure Leblanc and her father, Daniel, a locksmith at the Museum of Natural History in Paris. Father and daughter flee Paris for the walled coastal city of Saint Malo, where they take refuge with a relative.

Doerr weaves a gorgeous story of survival during calamitous times that is particularly poignant when it comes to Daniel’s relationship with his daughter. Having been blind since her childhood, one of the ways Daniel keeps Marie-Laure safe is by constructing model replicas of their…

From Vibhuti's list on father-daughter relationships.

My father was a teenager when he fought in World War II. All my life I have tried to reconcile the dichotomy of my gentle father with the boy who joined the German military when he was 15. Werner Pfennig, the novel’s teenaged German protagonist, illustrates simply and powerfully that, even in a war, our moral compass allows us to make decisions to preserve our humanity.   

In one of the book’s final chapters, Marie-Laure, the blind French protagonist, admits to Werner she is not brave: “I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don’t you do the…

I was captivated by the first sentence. As the life of a young French girl (who is blind) collides with that of a German boy, they both struggle to survive in a seemingly impossible time. Despite the tragedy of the war, this story manages to reveal the heartwarming and beautiful grace that proves that humanity is not lost. It is no surprise that All the Light We Cannot See is an award-winning novel. It is beautifully written, filled with layered characters, and is mesmerizing at every turn in the story.

All the Light We Cannot See is written like a universal classic; timeless, poetic, and elegant. Set during World War II, in a backdrop of Paris and Berlin, the story is about the different lives of a blind French girl and an orphan German boy. Seemingly worlds apart, their parallel lives eventually cross paths in a captivating storyline. 

Descriptive scenes and a unique writing style make Anthony Doerr’s words melt in your mind and take you back to this unbelievable era.  

Though I sometimes dub this novel the book with a million endings, I loved seeing WWII Paris (and the French seaside) through the eyes of a brilliant blind girl and a sympathetic German with a knack for working with radio equipment. This story is told through the eyes of two narrators, Marie, a blind French girl and Werner, a poor German soldier trying to survive the war. As the two get closer and closer their fates entwine, and the down-and-out Paris of the WWII years truly shines as a beacon of strength for both children.

From Jessica's list on a little Parisian flair.

Author Anthony Doerr interweaves the stories of a blind French girl named Marie-Laure and a German boy, Werner Pfennig, whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II. At the close of this wonderful story, when Marie-Laure is old and it is the present (2014), Doerr narrates this line: “Every hour, she thinks, someone for whom the war was memory falls out of the world.” This is the very reason I needed to write my book—to share the inspirational story of my mother’s childhood. World War II is transitioning from memory…

This is actually an adult novel but I think YA readers would really enjoy it. This beautifully crafted story takes place before and during WWII. As you read the narratives of two strangers, far apart, you see how their lives are destined to collide. Marie-Laure is a blind girl growing up in France and Werner is an orphan boy growing up in Germany. How and why their paths cross has a lot to do with their common knowledge and passion for the transistor radio. This is an exciting read and the tension ratchets up steadily. There’s far too much going…

From Gina's list on heroes who have a disability.

The character of Marie is a triple threat—she’s young; she’s blind and she’s part of a mystery. Then the author brings in Werner—a complicated character from the opposite side of the war. I have long had a fascination with the question of what might I do under circumstances like those faced by these characters—for example, how might I distinguish between loyalty to my homeland and doing what is right?

From Jo's list on unsung heroes of WWII.

A beautiful moving story of a blind French girl and a German boy, an orphan, for whom a radio is a real life saver. The two stories of two completely different lives in a divided and war-torn world collide magnificently. A true piece of art, awarded with the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Doerr is an American author from Idaho. Since I did my senior year of high school as an exchange student in Idaho, I’m always extra charmed by someone from this particular area.

From Sophie's list on World War II heroines.

This epic, exceptional novel is about a blind French girl, Marie-Laure, and Werner, a German orphan, whose lives intersect during World War II. To escape the Nazis, Marie-Laure’s father takes her to stay with her reclusive great uncle, whose home is inside the citadel walls of Saint-Malo. The novel is stunningly beautiful in all respects — not the least of which are the many loving and inventive ways Marie-Laure’s father teaches his daughter to recognize her own resourcefulness, courage, confidence, and independence. I loved this book so much.

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