Book Review: “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr

Reviewed by Bev Scott

All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See is a beautiful, masterfully written work of historical fiction. It tells the stories of two young people, a blind French girl, Marie Laure and an orphan German boy, Werner. Marie Laure lives with her father, a master locksmith at the Museum of Natural History in Paris. Her family flees as the Nazis occupy Paris. But, they escape with what may be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel. They ultimately find shelter with Marie Laure’s great uncle in his house by the sea, in Saint-Malo. 

Werner lives in a German mining town in an orphanage with his sister under the eye of the French-speaking “house mother” Elena. Werner becomes intrigued with a radio and becomes an expert in repairing and building radios. With this skill, he ultimately tracks the French Resistance for the Nazis. Hence, the lives of Marie Laure and Werner intersect in occupied France.

The story is deeply moving, rich in detail with vivid descriptions and imagery of sensitivity and incredible kindness as well as unspeakable cruelty and horror. I was very confused in the beginning until I began to understand what the author was doing as he switched the focus of the character, the time and the place from chapter to chapter. Despite that confusion, I loved All the Light We Cannot See and highly recommend it.