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

by Anthony Doerr (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
9,887624447 (4.3)638
Member:Ashlad
Title:All the Light We Cannot See
Authors:Anthony Doerr (Author)
Info:Scribner (2014), 531 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:to-read

Work details

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

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» See also 638 mentions

English (602)  Spanish (7)  Dutch (4)  French (3)  German (2)  Danish (2)  Catalan (1)  Piratical (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (623)
Showing 1-5 of 602 (next | show all)
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is one of those books that you’ve heard so much about that you feel like you’ve read it before even picking it up. The Pulitzer Prize winning novel tells the story of two children spending their formative years in Europe during World War II. While Doerr writes beautiful prose and his descriptions are absolutely flawless, I found myself underwhelmed with the character growth and plot.

Marie-Laure, an inquisitive and altruistic blind girl living with her father in France, and Werner, a curious and stubborn boy fighting an uphill battle against his poverty-inflicted life in Germany, lead very different lives that eventually intertwine. Meanwhile, the war rages around them, and they fight in their own subtle, but meaningful ways.

The plot unfolds slowly, emphasized by time shifts amongst chapters and sections. Perspective changes between chapters added some frustration to my reading experience, as I often found Marie-Laure’s voice more engaging. Furthermore, about half-way through the novel, a new main character is tossed in the mix, and his mini-plot lessened more than enhanced my enjoyment of the novel. Ultimately, I felt more connected to the atmosphere and setting in the novel than to its characters.

While the novel is rightfully classified as historical fiction, there is also a thread of fantasy strewn throughout the plot. This thread felt the weakest to me, as it did not add much to the story. Marie-Laure’s and Werner’s struggles to lead significant lives provided a greater sense of fulfillment and emphasized the tragedies of war much more effectively.

On a more personal (and yes, very biased) level, I usually come away from novels about war with a heightened sense of its futility. Unfortunately, I never felt like I attached enough to the characters to attain a sense of catharsis. In fact, I felt that the fantastical element detracted from the novel’s meaning because it distanced the plot from reality.

The hype proved to me too much for Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See. As much as I enjoyed the writing style, everything else struck me as surprisingly average. If you’re interested in atmosphere over character, I would still definitely give it a shot though, as Doerr’s writing certainly evokes a comprehensive and accurate vision of the time. ( )
  Codonnelly | Jun 24, 2019 |
The difficult and the delightful blend beautifully in Doerr's shining prose. Among innumerable WWII books, the handful of characters here manage the rare feat of living distinct lives shaped but not supplanted by the war. Worth it for the model building and the breadth of research. ( )
  Eoin | Jun 3, 2019 |
5/28/2016

The writing in this book is astonishing. Like a prose poem, or Catherynne M Valente doing historical fiction. This book's writing takes my breathe away, and it breaks my heart.
-----
I read this in one sitting and my heart hurts a lot right now. If that doesn't recommend it, I don't know what will.
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Right. I'm going to attempt to write a slightly more coherent review. This book hurts, in a good way. The prose is lovely, the characters wonderful and in desperate need of hugs, the situation (World War II) suitably horrific. When Werner and Marie-Laure finally meet, it's electric.

There a couple of follow-up scenes, a few set in the 1970s and one in the present day. They were a bad idea and should have been cut. The book lives and breathes in the 1930s and 40s. That is where the story is. Screw epilogues.

So yeah, I liked this book. ( )
  miri12 | May 31, 2019 |
Beautiful book that follows a two people as world world 2 starts. A blind French Jewish girl being raised by her locksmith father, and a German orphan who is talented at electronics and radio. Their stories develop against the backdrop of the war in short beautiful chapters and finally join.
  JoshSapan | May 29, 2019 |
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr; (4*);

Doerr paints a picture of two adolescents growing up on opposite sides of WWII. The paths each follows ultimately lead to their meeting one another and make for wonderful storytelling. The author uses contrast of characters and events to
develop his characters: peace versus war, the mature and experienced versus the young and innocent, etc. I found it interesting how well this worked for the author.
Doerr uses short chapters to move back and forth among characters and events and to take time out of sequence. A very effective way to make what was a rather long read move along quickly.
This was my first experience with this particular author. I would like to read something else by him. ( )
  rainpebble | May 26, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 602 (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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"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)

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