“The girl climbs into the swing and pendulums back and forth, pumping her legs, and watching her opens some valve in Werner’s soul. This is life, he thinks, this is why we live, to play like this on a day when winter is finally releasing its grip.” Anthony Doerr, ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE
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).
It is a special thing when a book is so beautifully written and so intensely captivating that I cannot underline phrases and dog-ear pages as quickly as I read. This is the case with ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE.
When I read the synopsis of the book I thought, How can another WWII book (I have read at least 100) captivate me? The answer is simply this: There is no other story like it.
There are no other stories of ambivalent German boy genius’ and blind girls set in Saint-Molo. There are no other novels I have read in recent memory who have so imaginatively cast a story from within and without–from an omniscient narrator with a God’s eye view, to a limited narrator who walks in the shadows of his characters. The point of view choice, the relationships of the characters, and the human trials elevate ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE with a timelessness and a wisdom that speak to the truths of the soul. The novel apparently took ten years to craft, and Doerr’s brilliance shines forth on every page. This is a book I will place on a shelf near my desk so I may reference and reread it often.
If you read only one book this summer, let it be this one. I give ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE my highest recommendation.