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All the Light We Cannot See

by

All the Light We Cannot See Cover

 

Staff Pick

In Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See, set in France in 1944, a 16-year-old blind French girl and a 17-year-old German soldier are on different yet converging paths. This is an amazing, masterfully executed tale. Each perfect word, each perfect sentence is magnificent. Gorgeously written scenes, whether tender or brutal, are told with precision. Characters resonate so true to their being. Read it for the sheer beauty of the words. Read it for the sheer beauty of the story. I was immersed in this time and place through this magic.
Recommended by Adrienne, Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

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.

Review:

"In 1944, the U.S. Air Force bombed the Nazi-occupied French coastal town of St. Malo. Doerr (Memory Wall) starts his story just before the bombing, then goes back to 1934 to describe two childhoods: those of Werner and Marie-Laure. We meet Werner as a tow-headed German orphan whose math skills earn him a place in an elite Nazi training school — saving him from a life in the mines, but forcing him to continually choose between opportunity and morality. Marie-Laure is blind and grows up in Paris, where her father is a locksmith for the Museum of Natural History, until the fall of Paris forces them to St. Malo, the home of Marie-Laure's eccentric great-uncle, who, along with his longtime housekeeper, joins the Resistance. Doerr throws in a possibly cursed sapphire and the Nazi gemologist searching for it, and weaves in radio, German propaganda, coded partisan messages, scientific facts, and Jules Verne. Eventually, the bombs fall, and the characters' paths converge, before diverging in the long aftermath that is the rest of the 20th century. If a book's success can be measured by its ability to move readers and the number of memorable characters it has, Story Prize — winner Doerr's novel triumphs on both counts. Along the way, he convinces readers that new stories can still be told about this well-trod period, and that war — despite its desperation, cruelty, and harrowing moral choices — cannot negate the pleasures of the world." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Review:

“A tender exploration of this world's paradoxes; the beauty of the laws of nature and the terrible ends to which war subverts them; the frailty and the resilience of the human heart; the immutability of a moment and the healing power of time. The language is as expertly crafted as the master locksmith's models in the story, and the settings as intricately evoked. A compelling and uplifting novel.” M.L. Stedman, author of The Light Between Oceans

Review:

“This jewel of a story is put together like a vintage timepiece, its many threads coming together so perfectly. Doerr’s writing and imagery are stunning. It’s been a while since a novel had me under its spell in this fashion. The story still lives on in my head.” Abraham Verghese, author of Cutting for Stone

Review:

All the Light We Cannot See is a dazzling, epic work of fiction. Anthony Doerr writes beautifully about the mythic and the intimate, about snails on beaches and armies on the move, about fate and love and history and those breathless, unbearable moments when they all come crashing together.” Jess Walter, author of Beautiful Ruins

Review:

“Doerr sees the world as a scientist, but feels it as a poet. He knows about everything — radios, diamonds, mollusks, birds, flowers, locks, guns — but he also writes a line so beautiful, creates an image or scene so haunting, it makes you think forever differently about the big things — love, fear, cruelty, kindness, the countless facets of the human heart. Wildly suspenseful, structurally daring, rich in detail and soul, Doerr’s new novel is that novel, the one you savor, and ponder, and happily lose sleep over, then go around urging all your friends to read — now.” J.R. Moehringer, author of Sutton and The Tender Bar

Review:

“This novel has the physical and emotional heft of a masterpiece…[All the Light We Cannot See] presents two characters so interesting and sympathetic that readers will keep turning the pages hoping for an impossibly happy ending….Highly recommended for fans of Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient.” Library Journal

Review:

"What a delight! This novel has exquisite writing and a wonderfully suspenseful story. A book you'll tell your friends about..." Frances Itani, author of Deafening

Review:

“Anthony Doerr can find the universe in a grain of sand and write characters I care about with my whole heart.” Karen Russell, author of St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves

Review:

“Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.” Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Review:

“A novel to live in, learn from, and feel bereft over when the last page is turned, Doerr’s magnificently drawn story seems at once spacious and tightly composed....Doerr masterfully and knowledgeably recreates the deprived civilian conditions of war-torn France and the strictly controlled lives of the military occupiers.” Booklist (starred review)

Review:

“Intricately structured…All the Light We Cannot See is a work of art and of preservation.” Jane Ciabattari, BBC

Synopsis:

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 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.

Doerr’s “stunning sense of physical detail and gorgeous metaphors” (San Francisco Chronicle) are dazzling. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, he 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 a magnificent, deeply moving novel from a writer “whose sentences never fail to thrill” (Los Angeles Times).

About the Author

Anthony Doerr was awarded the 2010 Story Prize for Memory Wall. His other books include The Shell Collector, About Grace, and Four Seasons in Rome.  His books have been a New York Times Notable Book, an American Library Association Book of the Year, a "Book of the Year" in the Washington Post, and he has won the Barnes & Noble Discover Prize, the Rome Prize, the Hodder Fellowship from Princeton, and shared the New York Public Library's Young Lions Fiction Award.  His book reviews have appeared in the New York Times and Der Spiegel, and he writes the "On Science" column for the Boston Globe.  Doerr is the Writer-in-Residence for the state of Idaho.

What Our Readers Are Saying

Add a comment for a chance to win!
Average customer rating based on 7 comments:

W S Krauss, October 5, 2014 (view all comments by W S Krauss)
This novel is epic in scope, told through the eyes of a blind French girl, a young German soldier and a dying German officer determined to find a priceless jewel from a French museum during WWII. The stories of these characters come together to form an unforgettable portrait of this time in history. Doerr's images of the war are riveting; his writing pulls you in and does not let go. These particular characters provide unique perspectives of the war and shed light on the motivations and lives of those caught up in this tumultuous period.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
Rachel Coker, September 28, 2014 (view all comments by Rachel Coker)
Once this gorgeous book sucked me in, I found the world around me dissolving and felt a frustration that there was still laundry to be done, dinners to be cooked, phone calls to answer. "All the Light We Cannot See" is a World War II book, a work of historical fiction and a coming-of-age story. But it's so much more. It conjures up worlds not often considered, from the despair of a brilliant orphan who barely escapes life as a miner only to be chewed up by the German war machine to the lives of civilians in Saint-Malo, trapped for years under occupation that threatens to squelch their humanity completely. I've read numerous books set during the war, but I've rarely encountered a story told with such beauty and lyricism. The story unfolds with a dramatically nonlinear timeline, which I know some readers will find difficult, but I found that it added a sense of suspense to the book.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(1 of 1 readers found this comment helpful)
writermala, August 4, 2014 (view all comments by writermala)
Anthony Doerr has written a book with amazing characters; sketched so beautifully that each one comes alive for the readers. For me, however, it was Marie Loer a little blind French Girl and the technologically gifted German lad Werner.
The story starts out with these two lives in parallel and I kept on turning the pages to see if their lives would converge at some point.Let me not be a spoiler. You will love this account of the girl and the boy and how the "Sea of Flames" shapes the course of their lives, the lives of those around them and in some ways of history itself. A gripping 'must read.'
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
View all 7 comments

Product Details

ISBN:
9781476746586
Author:
Doerr, Anthony
Publisher:
Scribner
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Hardback
Publication Date:
20140506
Binding:
Hardback
Language:
English
Pages:
544
Dimensions:
228.6 x 152.4 mm

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All the Light We Cannot See New Hardcover
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Product details 544 pages Scribner - English 9781476746586 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

In Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See, set in France in 1944, a 16-year-old blind French girl and a 17-year-old German soldier are on different yet converging paths. This is an amazing, masterfully executed tale. Each perfect word, each perfect sentence is magnificent. Gorgeously written scenes, whether tender or brutal, are told with precision. Characters resonate so true to their being. Read it for the sheer beauty of the words. Read it for the sheer beauty of the story. I was immersed in this time and place through this magic.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "In 1944, the U.S. Air Force bombed the Nazi-occupied French coastal town of St. Malo. Doerr (Memory Wall) starts his story just before the bombing, then goes back to 1934 to describe two childhoods: those of Werner and Marie-Laure. We meet Werner as a tow-headed German orphan whose math skills earn him a place in an elite Nazi training school — saving him from a life in the mines, but forcing him to continually choose between opportunity and morality. Marie-Laure is blind and grows up in Paris, where her father is a locksmith for the Museum of Natural History, until the fall of Paris forces them to St. Malo, the home of Marie-Laure's eccentric great-uncle, who, along with his longtime housekeeper, joins the Resistance. Doerr throws in a possibly cursed sapphire and the Nazi gemologist searching for it, and weaves in radio, German propaganda, coded partisan messages, scientific facts, and Jules Verne. Eventually, the bombs fall, and the characters' paths converge, before diverging in the long aftermath that is the rest of the 20th century. If a book's success can be measured by its ability to move readers and the number of memorable characters it has, Story Prize — winner Doerr's novel triumphs on both counts. Along the way, he convinces readers that new stories can still be told about this well-trod period, and that war — despite its desperation, cruelty, and harrowing moral choices — cannot negate the pleasures of the world." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Review" by , “A tender exploration of this world's paradoxes; the beauty of the laws of nature and the terrible ends to which war subverts them; the frailty and the resilience of the human heart; the immutability of a moment and the healing power of time. The language is as expertly crafted as the master locksmith's models in the story, and the settings as intricately evoked. A compelling and uplifting novel.”
"Review" by , “This jewel of a story is put together like a vintage timepiece, its many threads coming together so perfectly. Doerr’s writing and imagery are stunning. It’s been a while since a novel had me under its spell in this fashion. The story still lives on in my head.”
"Review" by , All the Light We Cannot See is a dazzling, epic work of fiction. Anthony Doerr writes beautifully about the mythic and the intimate, about snails on beaches and armies on the move, about fate and love and history and those breathless, unbearable moments when they all come crashing together.”
"Review" by , “Doerr sees the world as a scientist, but feels it as a poet. He knows about everything — radios, diamonds, mollusks, birds, flowers, locks, guns — but he also writes a line so beautiful, creates an image or scene so haunting, it makes you think forever differently about the big things — love, fear, cruelty, kindness, the countless facets of the human heart. Wildly suspenseful, structurally daring, rich in detail and soul, Doerr’s new novel is that novel, the one you savor, and ponder, and happily lose sleep over, then go around urging all your friends to read — now.”
"Review" by , “This novel has the physical and emotional heft of a masterpiece…[All the Light We Cannot See] presents two characters so interesting and sympathetic that readers will keep turning the pages hoping for an impossibly happy ending….Highly recommended for fans of Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient.”
"Review" by , "What a delight! This novel has exquisite writing and a wonderfully suspenseful story. A book you'll tell your friends about..."
"Review" by , “Anthony Doerr can find the universe in a grain of sand and write characters I care about with my whole heart.”
"Review" by , “Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.”
"Review" by , “A novel to live in, learn from, and feel bereft over when the last page is turned, Doerr’s magnificently drawn story seems at once spacious and tightly composed....Doerr masterfully and knowledgeably recreates the deprived civilian conditions of war-torn France and the strictly controlled lives of the military occupiers.”
"Review" by , “Intricately structured…All the Light We Cannot See is a work of art and of preservation.”
"Synopsis" by , 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 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.

Doerr’s “stunning sense of physical detail and gorgeous metaphors” (San Francisco Chronicle) are dazzling. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, he 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 a magnificent, deeply moving novel from a writer “whose sentences never fail to thrill” (Los Angeles Times).

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