Review: All The Light We Cannot See (Anthony Doerr)

Genre: Historical Fiction

Rating: ★★★★★


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.


This is one of the most beautiful historical fictions I have ever read. I would rank this along my top favourites: The Book Thief and The Painted Girls (man, I have got to branch out beyond Paris & Germany)

The story is a bit slow but the short chapters alternating between the 2 protagonists and some important characters are my favorite. It suits my slow-reading habit and allows me to experience various places at once. The plot builds up very nicely between the meet-up of Marie-Laure and Werner but that ending is so heartbreaking. I was shocked that it happened. 

The writing is just beautiful and grips you from the beginning and as there are so many historical fictions surrounding WWII, I believe this provides a fresh new perspective on the past. Friendship and hope are given a whole new meaning in this book…


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