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All the Light We Cannot See (2014)

by Anthony Doerr

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
18,865886255 (4.29)811
"From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, a stunningly ambitious and beautiful novel about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II. 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. Doerr's gorgeous combination of soaring imagination with observation is electric. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another. Ten years in the writing, All the Light We Cannot See is his most ambitious and dazzling work"--… (more)
  1. 320
    The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (Blogletter)
  2. 202
    The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer (gypsysmom)
    gypsysmom: Similar locale in that Guernsey and St. Malo were occupied by the German army during World War II. Resistance is also a main theme in both of them.
  3. 121
    The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (LISandKL)
  4. 80
    Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi (cataylor, BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: Both of these heartbreaking World War II novels cause readers to pine for a happier ending than is possible for the characters. The stylistically complex writing describes the struggles that the characters -- some with physical challenges -- go through to survive.… (more)
  5. 54
    The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: These moving, stylistically complex novels reflect on the brutality of World War II and its lingering effects. The characters have diverse backgrounds, some supporting the Germans and others the Allies. Their wartime experiences threaten to ruin their futures.… (more)
  6. 10
    The Great Swindle by Pierre Lemaitre (olyvia, olyvia)
  7. 54
    Atonement (York Notes Advanced) by Anne Rooney (Steve.Gourley)
  8. 00
    A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France by Caroline Moorehead (srdr)
  9. 00
    Evidence of Things Unseen by Marianne Wiggins (WSB7)
    WSB7: Similar overarching theme.
  10. 00
    April in Paris by Michael Wallner (GoST)
    GoST: Another novel set in occupied France with a relationship between a German soldier and a French girl.
  11. 11
    Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian (cataylor)
  12. 22
    Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (sturlington)
  13. 11
    The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (sturlington)
  14. 01
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  15. 13
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  16. 02
    Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (sturlington)
Europe (47)
AP Lit (125)
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» See also 811 mentions

English (851)  Spanish (8)  French (4)  Dutch (4)  German (3)  Catalan (2)  Swedish (2)  Danish (2)  Italian (1)  Piratical (1)  All languages (878)
Showing 1-5 of 851 (next | show all)
This novel was wonderful. Anthony Doerr told a multifaceted story of family, friendships, war, and imagination.

This story sheds a different light through multiple characters of WWII. Not just the harsh and brutal realities of war, but those moments away from it. How even in war people lived their lives on both sides. How hope and love in its various forms are sometimes the very thing that drives survival and healing.

I loved the parallels between Werner’s story and Marie-Laure’s. How their paths converged and tapered away.

An absolute must read for historical fans! ( )
  TiffanyCutshall | May 15, 2024 |
Much of the writing in this book was lovely and I thought the characters were superbly drawn but I wearied of the war scenes, the two-part story thread and thought the book would benefit from a tighter edit. I was skimming over a lot of Werner's parts toward the end. Frederick's was a heartbreaking story. Did we need the diamond at all? I would read more of the author's work but must temper my enthusiasm to three stars. ( )
  featherbooks | May 7, 2024 |
Beautiful characters and relationships, mixed with the harsh practices of the Nazi regime--a (cruelly) bitter, but amazingly sweet tale. ( )
  TraSea | Apr 29, 2024 |
Generally wonderful; stayed up late every night reading it, finished it the last night at 2 am. Definitely a page-turner. Having just finished (and love) Piranesi, I think I was still a little hungry for fantasy, and that tinged my opinion a little. But still: generally wonderful. ( )
  RaynaPolsky | Apr 23, 2024 |
This is a wonderful book. Its main characters are a blind girl, Marie-Laure, the daughter of the keeper of locks at Paris' Natural History Museum, and Werner, a German orphan who with his sister lives in an impoverished but loving orphanage. The narrative switches between them, and slides backwards and forwards through the years surrounding the Second World War.

Limited by the circumstances of their young lives, both travel away from their birth places. Marie-Laure's father is charged with a secret responsibility and flees from Paris to Saint-Malo where he has relatives, and Werner is picked out because his extraordinary skill in tinkering with radios brings him to the attention of the Hitler Youth.

These individuals are sensitively drawn. But so are the supporting characters: Marie-Laure's father and uncle, the housekeeper: Werner's sister, his house mother in the orphanage, and most devastatingly of all, his delicate and unworldly friend Frederick.

The towns and countryside which form the backdrop to the story, and the passages which allude to the natural world convince as well. Language is graphic and poetic, and the story itself is a strong one.

My only minor criticism is that I would have left the narrative, with its unanswered questions, at the end of the war. Fast forwarding to the post-war years and the very recent past served no purpose for me. Despite the fact that, after 530 pages, I had no desire for the book to end. ( )
  Margaret09 | Apr 15, 2024 |
Showing 1-5 of 851 (next | show all)
What really makes a book of the summer is when we surprise ourselves. It’s not just about being fascinated by a book. It’s about being fascinated by the fact that we’re fascinated.

The odds: 2-1
All the Light We Cannot See
Anthony Doerr
Pros: Blind daughter of a locksmith meets reluctant Nazi engineering whiz! What more do you want?
Cons: Complex, lyrical historical fiction may not have the necessary mass appeal.
 
“All the Light We Cannot See” is more than a thriller and less than great literature. As such, it is what the English would call “a good read.” Maybe Doerr could write great literature if he really tried. I would be happy if he did.
 
I’m not sure I will read a better novel this year than Anthony ­Doerr’s “All the Light We Cannot See.”
 
By the time the narrative finds Marie-Laure and Werner in the same German-occupied village in Brittany, a reader’s skepticism has been absolutely flattened by this novel’s ability to show that the improbable doesn’t just occur, it is the grace that allows us to survive the probable.
 
Werner’s experience at the school is only one of the many trials through which Mr. Doerr puts his characters in this surprisingly fresh and enveloping book. What’s unexpected about its impact is that the novel does not regard Europeans’ wartime experience in a new way. Instead, Mr. Doerr’s nuanced approach concentrates on the choices his characters make and on the souls that have been lost, both living and dead.
added by ozzer | editNew York Times, Janet Maslin (Apr 28, 2014)
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Anthony Doerrprimary authorall editionscalculated
Andersson, ThomasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Appelman, ZachNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Barba, AndrésTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bosch, EefjeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Buckley, LynnCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cáceres, Carmen M.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Clauzier, ManuelCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gewurz, Daniele A.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Goretsky, TalCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Immink, WilCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kalina, JakubTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Löcher-Lawrence, WernerTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Malfoy, ValérieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sasahara, Ellen R.Designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stokseth, LeneOvers.secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tarkka, HannaKääNt.secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Teal, JulieNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vieira, Manuel AlbertoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zani, IsabellaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Epigraph
In August 1944 the historic walled city of Saint-Malo,
the brightest jewel of the Emerald Coast of Brittany,
France, was almost totally destroyed by fire. . . . Of the
865 buildings within the walls, only 182 remained
standing and all were damaged to some degree.
—Philip Beck
It would not have been possible for us to take power or
to use it in the ways we have without the radio.
—Joseph Goebbels
Dedication
For Wendy Weil
1940-2012
First words
Leaflets
At dusk they pour from the sky. They blow across the ramparts, turn cartwheels over rooftops, flutter into the ravines between houses. Entire streets swirl with them, flashing white against the cobbles.
Quotations
If only life were like a Jules Verne novel, thinks Marie-Laure, and you could page ahead when you most needed to, and learn what would happen.
Nothing will be healed in this kitchen.  Some griefs can never be put right.
Music spirals out of the radios, and it is splendid to drowse on the davenport, to be warm and fed, to feel the sentences hoist her up and carry her somewhere else.
There is pride, too, though — pride that he has done it alone. That his daughter is so curious, so resilient. There is the humility of being a father to someone so powerful, as if he were only a narrow conduit for another, greater thing. That's how it feels right now, he thinks, kneeling beside her, rinsing her hair: as though his love for his daughter will outstrip the limits of his body. The walls could fall away, even the whole city, and the brightness of that feeling would not wane.
Werner tries to see what Frederick sees: a time before photography, before binoculars. And here was someone willing to tramp out into a wilderness brimming with the unknown and bring back paintings. A book not so much full of birds as full of evanescence, of blue-winged trumpeting mysteries.
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Wikipedia in English (3)

"From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, a stunningly ambitious and beautiful novel about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II. 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. Doerr's gorgeous combination of soaring imagination with observation is electric. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another. Ten years in the writing, All the Light We Cannot See is his most ambitious and dazzling work"--

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Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.
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