All the Light We Cannot See
A NovelBook - 2014 | First Scribner hardcover edition
"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"--
From Library Staff
Bunny_Watson716 Dec 02, 2015
I loved Doerr's ability to conjure beautiful images with his writing, and the contrast between the worlds of the blind French girl and the German soldier. Powerful.
martins_mom Jul 05, 2015
Like a complex musical composition, this story weaves together the lives of a blind French girl and a young German soldier whose lives intersect during the destruction of St.Malo in the last days of World War Two. I loved the way the past and present were brought together here.
From the critics
QuotesAdd a Quote
“Time is a slippery thing: lose hold of it once, and its string might sail out of your hands forever.”
“Don’t you want to be alive before you die?”
“Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.”
“From a certain angle, the spring seems so calm: warm, tender, each night redolent and composed. And yet everything radiates tension, as if the city has been built upon the skin of a balloon and someone is inflating it toward the breaking point.” (p. 70)
Time is a slippery thing: lose hold of it once, and its string might sail out of your hands forever.
But it is not bravery; I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don't you do the same?
The ending thought:
And is it so hard to believe that souls might also travel those paths? That her father and Etienne and Madame Manec and the German boy named Werner Pfennig might harry the sky in flocks, like egrets, like terns, like starlings? That great shuttles of souls might fly about, faded but audible if you listen closely enough? They flow above the chimneys, ride the sidewalks, slip through your jacket and shirt and breastbone and lungs, and pass out through the other side, the air a library and the record of every life lived, every sentence spoken, every word transmitted still reverberating within it. Every hour, she thinks, someone for whom the war was memory falls out of the world. We rise again in the grass. In the flowers. In songs.
At her feet, the snails go about their work: chewing, scavenging, sleeping. Their mouths, Etienne has taught her, contain something like thirty teeth per row, eighty rows of teeth, two and a half thousand teeth per snail, grazing, scratching, rasping.
Etienne knew artillerymen who could peer through field glasses and discern their shells’ damage by the colors thrown skyward. Gray was stone. Brown was soil. Pink was flesh.
All your life you wait, and then it finally comes, and are you ready?
To men like that, time was a surfeit, a barrel they watched slowly drain. When really, he thinks, it’s a glowing puddle you carry in your hands; you should spend all your energy protecting it. Fighting for it. Working so hard not to spill one single drop.
“Mutti, what goes around the world but stays in a corner?”
“I don’t know, Max.”
“A postage stamp.
“Is it right,” Jutta says, “to do something only because everyone else is doing it?”
“Did you know,” says Marie-Laure, “that the chance of being hit by lightning is one in one million? Dr. Geffard taught me that.” “In one year or in one lifetime?” “I’m not sure.” “You should have asked.”
“Your problem, Werner,” says Frederick, “is that you still believe you own your life.”
Madame Ruelle says, “So the Gautier girl wants to get married. The family has to melt all its jewelry to get the gold for the wedding ring. The gold gets taxed thirty percent by occupation authorities. Then the jeweler’s work is taxed another thirty percent. By the time they’ve paid him, there’s no ring left!”
“But minds are not to be trusted. Minds are always drifting toward ambiguity, toward questions, when what you really need is certainty. Purpose. Clarity. Do not trust your minds.”
...It’s not a person you wish to fight, Madame, it’s a system. How do you fight a system?” “You try.”
“Can deaf people hear their heartbeat, Frau Elena?”
“Why doesn’t glue stick to the inside of the bottle, Frau Elena?”
...plants eat light, in much the way we eat food.
What do we call visible light? We call it color. But the electromagnetic spectrum runs to zero in one direction and infinity in the other, so really, children, mathematically, all of light is invisible.
Open your eyes, concludes the man, and see what you can with them before they close forever,...
There are ninety-six thousand kilometers of blood vessels in the human body, children! Almost enough to wind around the earth two and a half times . . .
SummaryAdd a Summary
From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the stunningly beautiful instant New York Times bestseller 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.
This novel lends itself well to readers who appreciate rich description and a compelling plot, making it ideal for a book club. Exquisite attention to detail lends itself to note-taking of passages that can be enjoyed over and over, and the plot itself brings forward many possible interpretations, depending on how the reader ‘sees’ this world.
blind jewish girl in WWII, has blue diamond verybody is looking for. Intersects with young German wunderkind.
This novel has an "X" shaped plot. One leg follows the life of orphan Werner Pfennig who hopes to escape the poor, short life of a coal miner in western Germany. His quick-minded understanding of radio technology wins entry to a Nazi youth training school. He spends the Second World War pinpointing and destroying clandestine radio transmitters. The other leg of the plot follows the life of Marie-Laure LeBlanc, a blind girl, who thrives in the Museum of Natural History in Paris where her father works. Forced to flee Paris by the invading Germans, the two narratives cross on a late summer day in 1944.
In 1934, at the age of six, Marie-Laure LeBlanc lost her eyesight. Her father, Daniel LeBlanc, is a locksmith at the Museum of Natural History in Paris. He builds Marie-Laure a scale model of their neighbourhood to help her navigate, and she spends her days with him at the Museum, reading Jules Verne in Braille. But their peaceful life is upset by the German invasion, and they flee the Nazi occupation of Paris, taking refuge in the coastal town of Saint-Malo. Unbeknownst to Marie-Laure, the Museum has entrusted her father with an item from its collection. What Daniel LeBlanc does not know is if it is the real artefact, or one of the three duplicates that was made to serve as a decoy. Meanwhile, in Germany, Werner Pfennig is orphan who lost his mother to illness and his father to the coal mines of Zollverein. He has a passion for radios and math. When war comes, these skills draw him to the attention of the Reich, and he is selected to attend a special military prep school where talented young Germans are indoctrinated into National Socialism.
All the Light We Cannot See is the beautiful story, set in WWII, of how the lives a blind French girl and orphan German soldier move slowly closer to one another and are destined to collide.
What an excellent book! At first, the thought of reading 500+ pages seemed daunting! But, Anthony Doerr constructs a beautiful work (with short chapters) and creates characters that endear themselves to you - I found I had trouble putting the book down. The story takes place during WWII, is told through the eyes of a blind French girl and a teenage Boy whose lives take different courses. Werner Pfennig, an orphan, and his sister survive in a coal-mining complex. It is Werner's exceptional aptitude for making and fixing radios that land him in a prestigious Reich military school. In Paris, Marie-Laure LeBlanc lives with her father, a locksmith employed at the Natural HistoryMuseum. Being blind, Marie-Laure spend her days with her father, learning from the feel of shells and organisms. As the war escalates, Marie and her father must flee Paris and love with an uncle in Saint-Malo, a town along the Atlantic Ocean. The recurring element of a fabulous diamond being pursued by the Nazis and Marie-Laure's father's role in keeping it out the their hands adds suspense. I loved how the lives of the two main characters develop, despite the desolation of the war - and how these two lives interesect, however briefly. A very worthwhile read!
A blind girl trying to survive the German occupation and Allied shelling of Saint Malo on the coast of France, a young, reluctant German soldier tasked with finding radio transmissions, and a German officer searching for a diamond which he believes will cure his illness.....fantastic manipulation of characters and events to bring them and the war to an end.
Age SuitabilityAdd Age Suitability
white_rabbit_1022 thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over
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