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All the Light We Cannot See (2014)

by Anthony Doerr

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
12,633722349 (4.29)687
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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» See also 687 mentions

English (693)  Spanish (6)  German (3)  French (3)  Dutch (3)  Danish (2)  Swedish (2)  Catalan (1)  Piratical (1)  All languages (714)
Showing 1-5 of 693 (next | show all)
I enjoyed reading this book for the most part, though the constant changing of time and place had me confused. At first, I didn't notice that some of the time changes were just months apart and thought maybe I hadn't been paying attention.
That notwithstanding, the book is beautifully crafted, with lyrical phrases containing evocative imagery and characters are well-drawn. Doerr carefully builds scenarios and relationships and destroys them -- I'm not sure this is meant as part of the war imagery or is unintentional.
For most of the book, it was clear that those with moral courage were female characters whereas the males waffled, compromised, dissembled and chickened out. Again, it wasn't clear to me that Doerr was aware of this since most of the females played secondary roles.
( )
  dcvance | May 4, 2021 |
Loved all the connections this book made between all of the characters. The way they grew and changed with their surroundings and experiences was my favorite part. ( )
  Abiquail | Apr 24, 2021 |
2.5 I really wish there were half stars because I don't want to give it a two, but I don't want to give it a three slightly more.

I didn't hate this book, which was strange because I found problems with it. It was long but enjoyable and I don't regret reading it. But my feelings are mixed and I can't help but point out the things that made this read-only 3.5 stars on five.

So let's start with what blew me away before we get into the things that bugged me. The message was given to us at the end of the novel, or what I interpreted it as was that people can and will have an effect on others. Even if they are separated by countries, wars, and generations. Even if they never meet. Something someone says or does can travel a long way and impact someone else's like, connecting in people in ways they can never imagine, even after their death. That is the beauty of All the Light We Cannot See, and why you should read his book.

Now what bugged me beside the beautiful message:

First, it's extremely long and the pages could have been used so much better. Anthony Doerr did an outstanding job at developing the leads, Marie-Laure and Werner, and some of their supporting characters. But the problem was that he only developed some! Many characters just seemed to just disappear after the first 100 or so pages, becoming nothing but a name. Like Jutta. By then end of the book, she was someone from a memory who I didn't care for enough to care for the ending. Also, Jutta was the only character I felt any connection too, and I promptly lost attachment to the book when she disappeared, becoming nothing more than a name on a letter we never see again until the end.

Also, as someone who likes old french authors and [a:J.R.R. Tolkien|656983|J.R.R. Tolkien|https://images.gr-assets.com/authors/1564399522p2/656983.jpg], it seemed like way too many pages for the small amounts of description. I wanted so much more than what I was given. The description was or at least felt like, it was one or two words in a phrase on a page, giving me the faintest ideas for the world. Sure, its the world that I live in, but I've never been to Paris before. Or France. I've seen Heidelberg Germany and the Frankfurt Airport, but only the touristy areas like castles and palaces. I can't imagine accurately what everything looks like, especially in the 1940s. I often found myself imagining that it looked like the sceneries from wither Harry Potter or the film for [b:The Book Thief|19063|The Book Thief|Markus Zusak|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1522157426l/19063._SY75_.jpg|878368] and I have no idea how accurate my imagery is.

Also, it flipped between time and perspectives randomly and often. The book started near the end in 1944, and then the next about 200 pages were in 1940, so long that I had almost forgotten what had happened in the prologue. Now, this did keep me interested throughout the story, was I wanted to know how it got to that point and whatnot, but a good story shouldn't have to leave cliff hangers for every time and character to keep the reader hooked.

Then for the character perspective change. I enjoyed reading about the different characters, but the chapters were so short and the characters not even being in the same country made it hard to follow. As soon as I got wrapped up in Marie-Laure's story I was thrust into Werner's or von Rumpel's. And von Rumpel's seemed totally unnecessary, just as the gem was. It was interesting in the beginning, but gave no lift to the story and lost its "wow" factor after the first couple hundred pages. In all this left me unattached to characters, in the end, when Werner died I felt little emotion. I was like "Okay, well that happened. Too bad. Not what I was expecting."

And finally, I wish the main characters had met up sooner. It felt like the whole plot of the book was building up to these character meetings, which they didn't happen soon enough nor in a satisfying way. I guess, as I said at the beginning, I feel like the moral of the story is about how two people with no similarities who barely meet can have an impact on each other. And that is the beauty of All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. If I can look past all these flaws and see the light in this novel then you can too! ( )
  afrozenbookparadise | Apr 22, 2021 |
Absolutely gorgeous book. The writing was beautiful, and the story was woven together perfectly. ( )
  ssperson | Apr 3, 2021 |
This is the best book I've read in some time. Is there a 6 star category? I loved the structure. Each short chapter is like a mini novel, beautifully written and constructed, that inexorably build to the thrilling final chapters. The switches in time are superbly handled. It is an excellent exploration of how major international events (in this case WW 2) effect ordinary people and how it brings out the best and worst in us all, no matter what side we are on. I closed the book for the final time with a very satisfied sigh. ( )
  Patsmith139 | Mar 15, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 693 (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
Buckley, LynnCover designersecondary 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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Wikipedia in English (3)

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.

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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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