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All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
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All the Light We Cannot See (2014)

by Anthony Doerr

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
11,135670406 (4.3)667
Marie-Laure has been blind since the age of six. Her father builds a perfect miniature of their Paris neighbourhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. But when the Nazis invade, father and daughter flee with a dangerous secret. Werner is a German orphan, destined to labour in the same mine that claimed his father's life, until he discovers a knack for engineering. His talent wins him a place at a brutal military academy, but his way out of obscurity is built on suffering. At the same time, far away in a walled city by the sea, an old man discovers new worlds without ever setting foot outside his home. But all around him, impending danger closes in.… (more)
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    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.
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    The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (LISandKL)
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    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)
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    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)
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    Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (sturlington)
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    The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (sturlington)
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    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. 00
    A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France by Caroline Moorehead (srdr)
  12. 00
    Evidence of Things Unseen: A Novel by Marianne Wiggins (WSB7)
    WSB7: Similar overarching theme.
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    Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian (cataylor)
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    The Book of Everything by Guus Kuijer (Othemts)
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» See also 667 mentions

English (648)  Spanish (6)  Dutch (4)  French (3)  Danish (2)  German (2)  Swedish (2)  Catalan (1)  Piratical (1)  All languages (669)
Showing 1-5 of 648 (next | show all)
I thought I was going to love this book, but it fell short for me. The novel is about a German orphan boy, and a Parisian girl. Two separate experiences of WWII, both on different sides, all coming together in an emotional ending. I'm surprised how removed I am from the characters, though a lot is going on around them, very little is explored beyond what these two characters are going through, and when you can't connect to characters, it's hard to care. I did enjoy the authors writing and look forward to reading more of his work. The short chapters make for a quick read despite the novels length. ( )
  melissa0329 | May 12, 2020 |
A book with two parallel stories that meet in the end. Sort of reminded me of a combination of The Diary of Anne Frank and The Book Thief. Beautifully written, this Pulitzer Prize winner and National Book Award finalist is truly a finely crafted piece of writing. Too few novels represent writing at this level. Great story with interesting characters who will keep you engaged the entire 532 pages. Well worth its length. ( )
  DanDiercks | Apr 26, 2020 |
When I was about 60 pages away from finishing this book, an acquaintence who had read it told me that I would hate the way it ended. Actually, at abut that same point, I had been wondering about how it might end, hoping it would end one way and fearing it would end another.
When it ended, I was very pleased with the decison the author, Anthony Doerr, had madeabout its ending. It felt authentic and honest and entirely consistent with the rest of the book.
As I reflect o the ending and the book as a whole, I am becoming more impressed with it than I was even when I posted my 5 star rating. I belive that this is not just another good book, a good pices of historical fiction. It is more than that.
The characters are well drawn and believable and the situations and events of the book are realistic. But you would expect that in any good piece of fiction. This book offers characters and incidents wthat are beyond what they appear to be on the surface. The characters are archetypes of the people who would have suffered through the war. Each carefull crafted character represents the thousands, perhaps millions, who would have been in the circumstances the characters are in. Civilians who just want to go on with their lives, soldiers who didn't want to be soldiers and their opposite, the loyalists who believed in their government and in what it stood for. Each and every character in this book, whether a major character or a lesser one, stands for similar real people as they would be in the throes of a brutal war.
The situations and events of the story siimilarly represent the kinds and types of events a lengthy, brutal and futile war would include.
Even the central unifiying item, the rare diamond, represents something larger than itself. It represents the loss of a nation when it is despoiled by a war, a war it did not want and rralized could only end in returning to a peace unlike the one it had before the war.
Mt friend was wrong about the ending of this book. Authenticity triumphs over sentimentality and the novel, and its readers, are the richer for it. ( )
  Paul-the-well-read | Apr 21, 2020 |
When I was about 60 pages away from finishing this book, an acquaintence who had read it told me that I would hate the way it ended. Actually, at abut that same point, I had been wondering about how it might end, hoping it would end one way and fearing it would end another.
When it ended, I was very pleased with the decison the author, Anthony Doerr, had madeabout its ending. It felt authentic and honest and entirely consistent with the rest of the book.
As I reflect o the ending and the book as a whole, I am becoming more impressed with it than I was even when I posted my 5 star rating. I belive that this is not just another good book, a good pices of historical fiction. It is more than that.
The characters are well drawn and believable and the situations and events of the book are realistic. But you would expect that in any good piece of fiction. This book offers characters and incidents wthat are beyond what they appear to be on the surface. The characters are archetypes of the people who would have suffered through the war. Each carefull crafted character represents the thousands, perhaps millions, who would have been in the circumstances the characters are in. Civilians who just want to go on with their lives, soldiers who didn't want to be soldiers and their opposite, the loyalists who believed in their government and in what it stood for. Each and every character in this book, whether a major character or a lesser one, stands for similar real people as they would be in the throes of a brutal war.
The situations and events of the story siimilarly represent the kinds and types of events a lengthy, brutal and futile war would include.
Even the central unifiying item, the rare diamond, represents something larger than itself. It represents the loss of a nation when it is despoiled by a war, a war it did not want and rralized could only end in returning to a peace unlike the one it had before the war.
Mt friend was wrong about the ending of this book. Authenticity triumphs over sentimentality and the novel, and its readers, are the richer for it. ( )
  Paul-the-well-read | Apr 21, 2020 |
Marie-Laure is the only daughter of the master locksmith of the Museum of Natural History in Paris. She has been slowly loosing her sight because of cataracts, and at the age of six she finally goes blind. Her father promises that he will always be there for her. He creates a fine scale model of her local streets so she can find her way round, and makes these amazing puzzles for her to solve. Warner lives in an orphanage with his sister in pre war Germany. He has natural engineering skills, and is able to repair and improve the early radios of the time.

War has broken out in Europe, and the Nazis invade France in 1940. Marie-Laure’s father is asked to be one of those that take a decoy of a valuable diamond away from the museum. This diamond is has dancing flames in the centre and is said to possess a curse too. They flee to the coastal town of St Malo to stay with a reclusive family member. As they settle into their new life there, he builds her a new model of the town so she can learn her way around it. But the Nazis have wind that there are copies of the gem and are staring to find those entrusted with taking it.

Werner has earned a place at a Nazi training school for elite engineers. His brilliance at science and maths mean that he rises rapidly through the school before being pushed into the Wehrmacht where he excels at finding illegal radio transmissions.

As the war approaches its conclusion, Werner is posed to northern France tracking radio signals from the French resistance. Marie-Laure is one of those transmitting strings of code numbers and music; the person hunting her is Werner.

This is two stories of children on opposite sides, drawn into the Second World War through no fault of their own. It is full of the tragedies and suffering of conflict, the pain, suffering and fears of the young that know what to do, but don’t understand why they are doing it. There is no joy in war, and Doerr manages to convey this eloquently and sensitively, bringing together these mere children, in a sad and poignant story. There are lovely elements too, in particular the way that people can still show humanity even in war and those that demand everything can still be denied.

There plot is reasonable too, and the characters have that inexorable slide towards each other, and it does manage to have drama, especially when Werner is in St Malo hunting radios signals. But there are flaws too. It is quite flowery writing; Doerr seems to want to use seventeen words, when sometimes really two would be sufficient. A braver editor could have tightened the story up no end, but overall I think three stars is fair for this. ( )
  PDCRead | Apr 6, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 648 (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
Appelman, ZachNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Barba, AndrésTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bosch, EefjeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cáceres, Carmen M.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Clauzier, ManuelCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Goretsky, TalCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Immink, WilCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Löcher-Lawrence, WernerTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sasahara, Ellen R.Designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stokseth, LeneOvers.secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tarkka, HannaKääNt.secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vieira, Manuel AlbertoTranslatorsecondary 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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Book description
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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