Skip to main content
PBS logo
 
 

Book Reviews of All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See
All the Light We Cannot See
Author: Anthony Doerr
ISBN-13: 9781476746586
ISBN-10: 1476746583
Publication Date: 5/6/2014
Pages: 531
Rating:
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 287

4.1 stars, based on 287 ratings
Publisher: Scribner
Book Type: Hardcover
Reviews: Amazon | Write a Review

38 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful

reviewed All the Light We Cannot See on + 1441 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 13
Sometimes I struggle to write a review. Not true this time. All the Light We Cannot See was sent to me by the publisher in two forms - audio and hardback print. It's wonderful. I was mesmerized from the beginning. The plot would seem to circle around the lose of a famous diamond that is cursed and housed in the Museum of Natural History in Paris. It is said that whoever possesses the diamond will live forever but will lose all his friends and family, one by one. So the story begins.

Yet this is a tale of war and of the people it affects. There is a French girl, Marie-Laure, who is blind who lives with her beloved father who works as a locksmith for the museum. There is an orphan boy, Werner, who is entranced with radios and how they work and finds himself recruited into German youth training. There is a self-centered general, Von Rumpel, whose cruelty is matched only by his drive to find the diamond that may save his life. These are key characters, yes, but others add so much depth.

Marie-Laure's uncle and his housekeeper are active in the resistance and risk their lives daily. The reader can't help but experience their fear and courage as they continue to work against German occupation. There is Werner's sister, Jutta, who struggles to survive starvation, rape and war itself and thinking often about her brother. Volkheimer, the gentle giant with a cruel reputation, was a friend to Werner but whose friendship he questions. Will he expose Werner's actions when they do not support the war? And, there is Frederick whose love for birds and independent thought expose him to beatings during training that damage his brain yet leave him living.

Can I write more? Yes, there is the reality of war, hope and survival expressed over and over again. This is a novel to be read, experienced and remembered. I absolutely loved it and can't recommend it enough. I'm overjoyed that the publisher sent it.
junie avatar reviewed All the Light We Cannot See on + 630 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 7
Beautifully written with characters you care for immediately. Marie is a blind French girl and her story is told in alternating short chapters along with a very intelligent German youth named Werner during the occupation of France in WW2.

The only problem I had was the time shifts, as I found myself having to go back to see which time period I was reading about. Otherwise, the story was intriguing enough to keep me reading until the end. It was a sad story, but had a satisfactory conclusion. Excellent book which I wholeheartedly recommend.
23dollars avatar reviewed All the Light We Cannot See on + 432 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 7
This was the February 2015 pick in my online book club, The Reading Cove.

I must say, I have mixed feelings about this read. On one hand, I thought the writing was very elegant, beautifully poetic and high quality. But on the other hand, the execution of the time shifts seriously choked the pacing of the narrative far too much. The brief glimpse a few years ahead was engaging, but once the narrative shifted into the main backstory, the train almost stopped moving altogether! What's more, the technique wasn't even used for foreshadowing or to create mystery. There seemed to be no real purpose for the time shifts at all.

Werner, a young German boy, and Marie-Laure, a young French girl, both come to life in this WWII period and the author's descriptions of how each discovers all the light they cannot see is definitely worthwhile. The writing has a rich texture to it, and creates a great sense of atmosphere, but in the end, I was disappointed and found myself eager to get to the end.

Overall, would I be willing to read more from this author? Yes, I would. The quality of the writing was impressive enough to overshadow the pacing issue I didn't care for. B-/C+
lmntree avatar reviewed All the Light We Cannot See on + 37 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
I did enjoy this book. I have to say that I wish I hadn't read it immediately after finishing The Book Thief, which I absolutely loved. Both books take place in the early 40's , from the points of view of people on different sides of that horrible time in Germany and France. All of the stories are captivating, I just felt more for Markus Zusak's characters.
perryfran avatar reviewed All the Light We Cannot See on + 1193 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
This novel won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2015; in my opinion, a very well-deserved award. This was a very poignant story which focuses on two young people coming of age prior to and during World War II. The first is Marie-Laure, a French girl who lost her sight at age six. Her father worked as a locksmith in the Paris Museum of Natural History and was able to create very detailed models of their home and the surrounding streets of Paris to help Marie learn to navigate the city. The second is Werner, an orphan who lives with his sister Jutta in a Children's home in a mining city in Germany. Werner and his sister are enchanted by a radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they can hardly imagine. Werner becomes expert in repairing and building radios which is later an asset to the Germans in tracking down members of the resistance during the war.

The novel is told in short chapters which alternate between Marie's and Werner's stories. The novel begins with the Allied bombing of Saint-Malo, a walled city on France's coast where Marie and Werner finally come together. The story then delves into the past of each character with Marie and her father having to flee Paris when the Germans invade and end up in Saint-Malo at Marie's uncle's residence. Meanwhile, Werner has been selected to attend a very harsh military school where his skills at radios and electronics are honed and put to use by the Germans.

The story is very haunting and heart breaking with both Marie and Werner losing many people they loved along the way. I was really captivated by this one and was sorry to see it end. A very high overall recommendation.
njmom3 avatar reviewed All the Light We Cannot See on + 1368 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is a World War II story, but it is not about the politics, battles, winners, or losers of the war. It is about two young individuals - one on either side of the conflict - who are both victims of the war. The intricate, circular structure of the book between Marie-Laure's story and Werner's story provides a beautiful rhythm and flow to the story.

Read my complete review at: http://www.memoriesfrombooks.com/2014/09/all-light-we-cannot-see.html
reviewed All the Light We Cannot See on + 2 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Amazing characters and character development ... I really fell in love with all the characters and felt like they were as human and as real as the book in my hands.

My ONLY negative critique is that the 'jumping back and forth in the story line' tactic was a little overdone. I found myself confused as to whether I had read something and forgotten it or if it was just now being introduced to the story a TON .. and normally I'm perfectly fine with the jumping back and forth, actually enjoy it because it builds the sense of 'what is going on???' and 'how did we get to here????'

Overall amazing read though, you won't regret it
reviewed All the Light We Cannot See on + 34 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
This is one of my favorite books of all time because of the incredible story, amazing characters and seeing what length others will go through for someone they love.
reviewed All the Light We Cannot See on + 329 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
This book was an excellent read. I loved the story and the characters are so strong. I admire so much the hardships people in a war country have to endure and how they survived all the terrible things they went thru. It is a super read.
loregess avatar reviewed All the Light We Cannot See on + 175 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
A beautifully detailed story set in occupied France and mostly told through the eyes of a blind girl and a boy with big hopes and dreams (and the brain and skills to achieve them) who is forced to become a Hitler youth. The plot was extremely original for the subject matter, and the characters jumped out of the pages.
justreadingabook avatar reviewed All the Light We Cannot See on + 1714 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
What an amazingly simple yet complex story told in two voice that connect the reader and the characters together. This book was smooth and I mean that it does not have a fast paced plot or twists and turns. It continues on as life in that time did. You experience life and as they do, hope for all the best it has to offer. Beautiful writing, wonderful characters and strength. A must read.
tmulcahy avatar reviewed All the Light We Cannot See on + 35 more book reviews
Amazing. The diamond is a chilling, haunting element in the story, and many actions center around it, but it is not the story. The story revolves around people, people whose lives are upended by war. Each of them had lives of complexity and love, and then all things went crazy. We see their lives from each of their own perspectives, and they are real to us. They are brothers and sisters and parents and children, and thinkers and doers. Always they are loved or love someone. And they suffer through terrible circumstances and horror. Few survive. And the survivors have those memories. Some are haunting, some poignant, and some memories have kept them alive. And, I think, some of those memories are part of my memories now.
jjares avatar reviewed All the Light We Cannot See on + 3308 more book reviews
This book won the Pulitzer Prize for 2015 for good reason. The author says he spent 10 years writing this book. Doerr uses very short chapters in this book. I thought their use to be unique, plus it moved the action along smartly.

Marie-Laure, a blind Parisian girl, lives with her father near the Museum of Natural History. Her father is the locksmith of the museum, but he spends his evening hours building a model of their neighborhood, so Marie-Laure can learn to navigate around the area. As the Germans start to occupy Paris, the pair flee to Saint-Malo (on the Brittany coast), where Marie-Laure's great-uncle lives near the sea wall.

At the same time, a young German orphan and his sister Jutta, live poorly near the coal mines (where their father was killed). Werner finds a broken radio and learns how to reconstruct it. He becomes skilled at working on radios and is given a place in the German elite training school.

Eventually, Werner and Marie-Laure meet in occupied France. Their lives intersect for less than a day and yet it has profound meaning for them both. The characters are so clearly drawn that I felt I knew what they felt when something frightening - or happy - happened. The writing is absolutely beautiful and enchanting. This is not a war novel; rather, it is a novel showing two young peoples' growth and ability to withstand unthinkable hardships and terrifying circumstances during a war.

The one thing I did not like was the jumping forward and back in time. It killed the motion of the story forward. The author had to rebuild momentum in the next part (there are thirteen parts). Then he repeated the process by jumping to an earlier or later time.
reviewed All the Light We Cannot See on
Great book, but I didn't like the ending.
reviewed All the Light We Cannot See on + 113 more book reviews
The story line was not something that attracted me right away, but once I started, I was so engrossed in the story that I did not have any problems with the time shifts and the chapters alternating between the main characters. I felt transported into WWII and could feel the fatality of war and how innocents are drawn into the web of violence in spite of themselves. You cannot predict the end. I would recommend this book to any lover of historical fiction. A. Doerr is a great story teller.
author-wwiinovel avatar reviewed All the Light We Cannot See on + 22 more book reviews
This World War II novel was of great interest to me for a couple of reasons. Firstly, its setting in that time period is a source of endless fascination for me as I love to read about it, and now to write about it in my own novel, Journey To Marseilles, which also takes place during that global conflagration. Secondly, it is a dual narrativeâas is Journey To Marseillesâwith storylines that finally dovetail in conclusion.

It is a story of searches. The blind French youngster, Marie-Laure LeBlanc, searches her way through city streets with nothing to aid her but a cane and miniature neighborhood models that her locksmith father constructs for her, and at the same time navigates her way through the hardships and complications of the war that threatens her very existence. The scientifically precocious German boy, Werner Pfennig, in his search for knowledge and a way out of an orphanage, finds himself being trained in a regimented Nazi youth camp and finally electronically searching the battlefields for enemies of the Reich. And finally, a Nazi treasure hunter searches for a priceless and legendary gem he believes may have the power to save his life.

With an eloquence of language and heartbreaking imagery, Anthony Doerr deftly conducts the reader on a fascinating search for a fulfilling conclusion. I can't recommend this novel highly enough.
hardtack avatar reviewed All the Light We Cannot See on + 2591 more book reviews
I'm not cold-hearted, but I simply cannot understand why this book is so popular. I kept reading it, hoping it would get better, but it just kept getting worse.
reviewed All the Light We Cannot See on + 3 more book reviews
This book was fantastic and truly deserved a Pulitzer prize. I was thrilled to be able to get it via the Paperback Swap link. It's everything (good) the reviewers have said about it.
reviewed All the Light We Cannot See on + 4 more book reviews
Loved this book. Well written and interesting
reviewed All the Light We Cannot See on + 11 more book reviews
I agree it was somewhat difficult to keep track of the present and future of several different characters in this novel, but once you got the hang of it, it wasn't so bad.
The story itself is amazing and I am so grateful for those who have the imagination and skill to write such a compelling story. I've read a lot of novels that take place in World War I and World War II and this certainly was one of the best.
jegka avatar reviewed All the Light We Cannot See on + 162 more book reviews
I read this book because of all the enthusiasm for it, but I could never get into it. I finished it, waiting for the aha! moment, but it never came.
Maybe it was because the expectation was too high. The story was ok. The characters were ok. But I was never really immersed in it.
pghpens avatar reviewed All the Light We Cannot See on + 58 more book reviews
A magical novel that will have you enraptured with the memorable characters and their stories of life in Europe during WWII.
eadieburke avatar reviewed All the Light We Cannot See on + 1622 more book reviews
Book Description
WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE
From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the beautiful, stunningly ambitious 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.

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, a National Book Award finalist, All the Light We Cannot See is a magnificent, deeply moving novel from a writer "whose sentences never fail to thrill" (Los Angeles Times).

My Review:
This was a very beautifully written book and one in which you love to savor every word. I found the beginning to be a tad slow but suddenly the book gets very interesting and you quickly find yourself much engrossed. The story switches back and forth between two different perspectives and comes together towards the end. It's a type of book that stays with you long after you finish reading it. The World War II history has been very well researched and this novel proves that there are many stories from that period that still need to be told. If you haven't read this masterpiece, you need to, as the story will leave you awe-inspired.
23dollars avatar reviewed All the Light We Cannot See on + 432 more book reviews
This was the February 2015 pick in my online book club, The Reading Cove.

I must say, I have mixed feelings about this read. On one hand, I thought the writing was very elegant, beautifully poetic and high quality. But on the other hand, the execution of the time shifts seriously choked the pacing of the narrative far too much. The brief glimpse a few years ahead was engaging, but once the narrative shifted into the main backstory, the train almost stopped moving altogether! What's more, the technique wasn't even used for foreshadowing or to create mystery. There seemed to be no real purpose for the time shifts at all.

Werner, a young German boy, and Marie-Laure, a young French girl, both come to life in this WWII period and the author's descriptions of how each discovers all the light they cannot see is definitely worthwhile. The writing has a rich texture to it, and creates a great sense of atmosphere, but in the end, I was disappointed and found myself eager to get to the end.

Overall, would I be willing to read more from this author? Yes, I would. The quality of the writing was impressive enough to overshadow the pacing issue I didn't care for. B-/C+
reviewed All the Light We Cannot See on + 628 more book reviews
Winner of the Booker Pulitzer Prize, various other awards, and a NY Times best seller for two and a half years. Story set before and after WWII in Germany and France, two warring countries, contrasting and interweaving the lives of the people about the Nazi occupation of France, about how radio broadcasts alerted the German military to covert actions and the French Resistance. Deeply moving, shocking, poignant, and irrestible. 10 years in the writing, this book is incredible. The alternating short stories can be difficult to follow, but that would be the only setback for e in reading it, highly recommend.
jrburk avatar reviewed All the Light We Cannot See on + 26 more book reviews
I saw this book in the library and knowing it was on my wish list, I decided to check it out. I started reading it and thought ..... great I picked out another Hitler book.....I am getting tired of reading them. Mind you I have read some really goods ones too. But I feel like I was hitting a rut where books are concerned. I still kept reading.. The book is an easy read and keeps you interested no doubt. But honestly I did not appreciate what I was reading until close to the end. There are some profound statements that sum up so much of what happened throughout this time period. These statements tugged my heart. Would I recommend this book. You bet
stonestacker avatar reviewed All the Light We Cannot See on + 3 more book reviews
Best novel I have read this read this year. Great laying of characters & plots. Themes resonate throughout: The horror of the German occupation of France in WWII, The tragedy of young men being sucked into the Nazi war machine, A father & daughter learning to relive with the daughter's blindness, well meaning people being smothered by circumstances, all through a weaving time structure. A classic read
joann avatar reviewed All the Light We Cannot See on + 403 more book reviews
This novel had the best flowing language I have read in a very long time
Marie-Laure and Werner are two young individuals growing up in different cultures during WW II. Marie-Laure has a constant secret and Werner is an absolute genius with radios and hardware to fix radios.
War always has more than one side and this book is absolute evidence of that.
I was a little disappointed with the ending, but, it is what it is, it was not my work to create.
reviewed All the Light We Cannot See on + 531 more book reviews
This in one of the exceptional books I've thoroughly enjoyed reading. Doerr writes seeing the world through "eyes" of a blind girl, and knows much about many subjects.. His writing flows from the beginning, writing eloquently of the good, and often, of the haunting scenes of life during wartime. He writes about many people: a locksmith, a young German who struggles being a member of the Youth organization, writes about cities in Germany, Paris and throughout France. A book not to miss reading.
leesie avatar reviewed All the Light We Cannot See on + 65 more book reviews
Beautifully written, interesting storylines, engaging characters and shifts in time. Fairly realistic, filled with plenty of wartime atrocities, but with beauty as well.
I didn't love the time shifts. I think it helped build tension, but just as things were getting "good" you would go back a few years or something.
The chapters are very short, so this book reads really quickly as I continued to read "just one more".
Lovely yet horrifying. It really illuminated certain things about WWII and you can easily begin to understand both the French and the German youth.
Read it for bookclub and it was quite universally enjoyed. We had a good question and answer session. Recommended for engaging discussions.
reviewed All the Light We Cannot See on + 12 more book reviews
It was a good book. Maybe after a year of hype I'd expected it to be a phenomenal book. Maybe because I did it as an audio book, it didn't quite grip me the same as if I'd read it.
reviewed All the Light We Cannot See on + 269 more book reviews
The story is based during WWII with the focus on the French Occupation and the liberation of France. It follows several young lives from early childhood, and how they are changed forever by war. Beautifully written - indescribably sad. D.
reviewed All the Light We Cannot See on + 354 more book reviews
Good book. Well written. Young blind girl in war torn France.
reviewed All the Light We Cannot See on + 10 more book reviews
Excellent story and very good writing. Charming characters.
MKSbooklady avatar reviewed All the Light We Cannot See on + 958 more book reviews
The stories of two children in Europe during WWII-one a young blind girl, and the other a German boy-told separately, but they do eventually come together. Haunting is the best word I can come up with.
Yoni avatar reviewed All the Light We Cannot See on + 327 more book reviews
What can I say about this book that hasn't already been said? I absolutely adored it. Beautiful writing, wonderful characters. A war novel that focuses on humanity. I really have no words other than READ IT. I know this is a book you will either love or hate.
reviewed All the Light We Cannot See on
Amazing story!
jmlsauter avatar reviewed All the Light We Cannot See on + 9 more book reviews
I felt unsatisfied as I finished this book. I didn't get much out of it. I liked the book but did not feel for the characters. I had the impression this was more of a love story but, spoiler alert, they barely meet. There are so many books out there to read, find something better written.