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


GOODREADS SUMMARY | Scribner | Hardcover, 531 pages | May 6th, 2014 | Adult Fiction | Historical | Rating 5 out of 5 Stars

Some days, you find yourself in the midst of a wonderful book without ever knowing what it is that made it so. It’s how it made you feel, and what you’ll take away from the reading experience. Oftentimes, this novel made me feel like hopelessness ceases to exist, because if a blind girl can live through and succeed over heartbreaks and war, then nothing is impossible for someone who has full capacities of their senses. All the Light We Cannot See is a story about courage in different forms. Like that of a blind girl who accepted her fate with an unrelenting optimism, and that of a boy who dare dream at a time when the future of his countrymen is in the hands of one ruthless, tyrannical man. It was beautiful, heartbreaking, heartfelt, and hopeful. Truly, a read that would make you feel like everything you deemed hopeless bears no significance in the grand scheme of things.

Her story.

Maurie-Laure succumb to blindness when she was but six years old. This didn’t stop her curious wonder of the world, however. In Paris, where her father worked as a locksmith for the museum, she learnt of the legend of the Sea of Flames: a rare diamond worth at least 100 carats. It is said that whoever find themselves in possession of this diamond, will either live forever or suffer years of bad luck. During the German invasion of France, Maurie-Laure and her father fled Paris to the coastal town of Saint-Malo. A wall, said to be impenetrable, surrounded this town. There, they sought refuge with Etienne Leblanc, Marie-Laure’s great uncle.

In her father’s possession was the legendary Sea of Flames for safekeeping. In order to protect the valuable gem from looting German forces, the museum entrusted her father with what he thought was a replica of the diamond. Weeks after they settled in Saint-Malo, a letter came for him asking him to “travel safely” back to Paris. He never made it there. He was imprisoned, then eventually taken to a camp.

Years later, and on the night before the Germans’ surrender to the allied forces, Marie-Laure will face the man who made it his mission in life to find the missing diamond.

His story.

As an orphan living in a children’s home, Werner have shown incredible intelligence for a boy whose options didn’t really include education. He taught himself; he read, and had been fascinated with transmitter radios. It was during one of those nights whenΒ he and his sister discovered the voice of The Professor: a French-speaking narrator who lectured from far-away land. He spoke about Science, and played Debussy’s music. He opened his eyes to the fascinating concept of invisible waves of lights and sounds. It was his fascination that lent him the proficiency to fix things, create things. It was also what would lead him to the door of a German officer that will recruit him to study in a school meant to raise boys into fΓΌhrer’s minions. Here, he will find himself. He will see cruelty unlike anything he’s ever seen, and he will make a connection with a slight boy who’s only fault was knowing what was right; and who’d make him feel ashamed of the man he’ll grow up to be.

Their story.

Often times, I found myself overcome with impatience. I wanted to know how these two stories were tied; I wanted to know when Werner’s and Marie-Laure’s paths would cross. But when it did, I was ashamed to admit that what I was waiting for had been there all along. That I was sorely focused on them being within each other’s reach that I almost missed it. It was only when I was writing this review that it came to me in some sort of epiphany. Their connection transcended the restraints of the physical plane. It started when Werner found his broken radio in the trash. It started when Marie-Laure learnt of a legend that made her question if the myth was real. And for every triumphs, every heartache, and every trauma life had brought them, they will always be connected in one way or the other.Β 

There was no romance, but there is something much more romantic than a couple of kids finding their way to each other. It’s so hard to explain why I feel the way I feel about their stories. Sometimes, I think that you need not explain yourself. That the important thing is how someone’s invented story could feel as real as the stories contained in history books. You can’t top that kind of realism.


  • I’m putting together a feature called “Learning History Through Fiction” and I’m definitely going to consult you. Right now I’m working on England. Do you have any recommendations? I’m going from Medieval to Modern.

    • Well, the most immediate one I can think of is Sweet Tooth. This one deals a little bit with the civil unrest brought on by the IRA’s bid for separation. Also, a bit about the Cold War in Europe. Though, to be honest, the book’s focus was more about the female lead’s clandestine affair with her subject (she’s an agent for MI5). I’ll keep you in mind when I find some more on my shelves. πŸ™‚

  • I can’t wait to read this book and your review makes me realize I must get this book sooner rather than later so I get to reading it asap!

  • Sounds like a gorgeous read, J.! I loved your review, and I am often drawn to books like that. πŸ™‚

    • Thanks, K. This is definitely one of those tough to review type of books, but I tried. πŸ™‚

  • This sounds like an extremely interesting book. Great review Joy! :]

  • kynndra

    This sounds like a very interesting novel, I’ll have to look further into it, also – amazing review!

  • Wow, you’re on a roll lately with the awesome book picks, this sounds like another incredible one. I actually started reading Persuasion last night, just as a pleasure read.

    I love the premise and not having that romance to rely on. It doesn’t work in every book, and some of the books I thought I’d really enjoy have been ruined by over dramatised and uncomfortable romance. It sounds like it’s one of those reads that is more about the journey than the destination. Going to try to hunt down a copy. Gosh Joy, your recommendations are costing me a small fortune πŸ˜€

    Brilliant review as always! <3

    • *blushes* Oh my. You ladies on DBN write the most spectacular reviews, so when you say something like that, I really take it to heart. Thanks so much! <3 And sorry! Lol.

  • Oh I don’t know…I need romance in a story πŸ™ Have tried books without romance but they tend to be misses…Amazing review nonetheless!

    • Yeah, I tend to look for romance in a book, too. This one does have some but it’s very minimal. And honestly, this book was too wonderful for words that the lack thereof bear no deterrence whatsoever.

      Thanks for stopping by, Lola!

  • You keep sharing all these books I know nothing about. And then all the gorgeous covers. Sigh. I like the cover for this one πŸ˜€ I’m so glad you loved this book Joy. <3 Loving books is the best feeling. But.. no romance? Sad face. But I'm glad you liked it, even so πŸ˜€ Maybe I will want to read this one day. <3 thank you for sharing about it sweetie πŸ™‚

  • Your reviews are always top notch! Every time I visit your blog, I read a review and say ” Okay I need this now “. I actually appreciate the fact that there isn’t any romance. To me that makes the story even more intriguing! I’ll be picking this up very soon πŸ™‚

    • Aw. Thanks, Tika. This book is definitely one of my favourites this year. I do hope you’ll give it a chance someday. πŸ™‚

  • I don’t think I’ve ever read a story with a blind person but it’s intriguing. Plus France? That’s fun! thanks for introducing me to this book!

    • You’re very welcome, Melliane. Yes, I suppose you’ll have a better perspective, won’t you? Are you familiar with Saint-Malo?

  • Naomi @ Nomi’s Paranormal Palace

    This sounds like a sweet read, that you thought too much about, trying to figure out πŸ˜‰
    Glad you enjoyed it though!

    Naomi @ Nomi’s Paranormal Palace

    • Thanks, Naomi. I certainly took more than enjoyment from this. One of best of all time, IMO.

  • Okay, you just got me interested in this. This is honestly the first time I head of All the Light We Cannot See. It sounds mature – deep, universal thought mature. Lots of feels? I think I’m sold. I dont generally venture into the Adult section although I’m officially an adult. Thanks for the review Joy! πŸ™‚

    • You’re welcome, Precious. This one wasn’t on my radar either. It happened to be by fluke.

      Thanks for stopping by, hun. πŸ™‚

  • I enjoy reading a story from a visually impaired character’s perspective; they definitely see (I use that term loosely of course) the world differently than your average protagonist, so I find their POV refreshing. Lots of feels doesn’t necessarily mean romance; I’m happy that that worked to the author’s advantage in this tale.

    Carmel @ Rabid Reads

    • exactly! Marie-Laure made me appreciate the story more because everything she “sees” and feels were heightened.

  • No romance? That’s great! Sometimes it irks me why there always have to be romance even when the story doesn’t necessarily need it you know?

    It’s great to read a story sans romance, it’s very refreshing.

    • Yes! Isn’t it? Mind you, this one has romance of a different breed. It’s the love for everything and everyone worth loving. Sigh.

  • Wow this sounds like such a powerful read Joy! I think like you mentioned I would be highly anticipating Marie-Laure and Werner meeting up, but I think that the subtle way the author went about it I would appreciate a lot more! So glad that you’ve been on a great run of books lately! πŸ™‚

    • It’s weird how I keep reading some pretty awesome adult fiction, only to fall way short on YA. That tells me something, isn’t it?

  • Ah, know that impatience with the story all too well

  • This sounds like the writing was beautifully done, and subtle, and I love the fact that while writing your review you realized another layer of the author was writing about the connection between these two characters! “Their connection transcended the restraints of the physical plane.” *sigh* It’s wonderful to have a book speak to you, this sounds like it really did for you πŸ™‚

    • Thank you. It is definitely precious when such a book makes you feel so much.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • I think this type of read is precisely what we’re all chasing ALL the time. There’s really no need to explain, I’m happy that this struck a chord with you. It sounds absolutely wondeful and I’ll definitely read it as soon as I can. Hopefully I’ll feel the same way.

    • Thanks, Maja. I really hope you’ll enjoy this one. I’m curious to see how you’ll fare.

  • I’m even more excited now about reading this book! Great review, Joy πŸ™‚

  • I love these type of books, that ones that really touch you and make you see things in a better, much different light. This sounds beautiful Joy!

    • These type of books are a rarity for sure. So I tend to treasure them even more preciously when I find them. <3

  • That sounds like such a beautiful book. I have that on my TBR list. I had planned on reading it over the holiday season. Now your review has me even more pumped to read it!

    • Thanks, Cynthia. I hope you’ll enjoy. <3