[Book Review]: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Image Source: Goodreads
Book Title: All the Light We Cannot See
Author: Anthony Doerr
Publisher: Scribner
Source: Purchased
Genre: Historical Fiction
Year: 2014
Page Count: 530
ISBN: 9781476765655
Find it at: The Official Website of Anthony Doerr
Warning: Mild violence and sexual contents.
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My Rating: 4.5 out of 5.0

Goodreads' Blurb:
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.

This book is written in third person point-of-view, of mostly Marie-Laure and Werner's. All chapters are very short, with occasional ones consist of five pages at most. Each chapter alternately tells between Marie-Laure and Werner's story and ends in the most dramatic ways (this is what I like the most about the book).

I admit that this Anthony Doerr's work is the very first historical fiction I ever read. I bumped into New York Times' bestseller list, found this book and was willing to give it a try. On the first twenty pages, I was a bit surprised at the short chapters, as the books I read this far consisted with conventional long chapters. Nevertheless I found it to my liking and it brought a special feeling that despite the short space of writing (this what makes the 530 pages does not feel that much), the author managed to fit the most important details without being a reckless fast-paced story.

Through the uncommon prose, the author really convinced me that this was really what happened at the World War II in Europe; the bombings, the sieges and the feeling where you were unsafe once you were outside of your house wall. Even though what were written in the book were not that ugly like I have heard before from television and other historical non fiction books, but they were much more convincing, as they enticed me by the author's prose and gave me the unexplained feelings of the fear, tumult and the worry. It was just like the author personally experienced all those by himself.

My most favorite character from this book is Jutta, Werner's younger sister, by being all outspoken, unwavering and bold. Much to the contrary of Werner's, who seems like a meek boy, complying to what we call as an mainstream things, as in the book is by enrolling in Nazi academy.

What forestalling me from giving the book five stars is the part where Marie-Laure and Werner's finally meet in like the last six chapters of the book and they instantly fall in love. Only because of Werner frequently turned on his radio and listened to Marie-Laure's soliloquy and tales and then he saved her from the Nazi's quest. Apart from that, Anthony Doerr's ten years of hard working should really be rewarded.


  1. This sounds like a fine book, and obviously a labor of love if the author put that many years into it. I've seen this one appearing and it seems to be well regarded- I like the sound of the short chapters, seems to work for a story that alternates POV's like you describe. Thank you for a thoughtful and good review.

    1. thank you for the comment, Greg. I really appreciate it. Yes, it's indeed a really good book. I don't regret the USD16 I spent for this book at all. You should give it a try too! :)