“It’s a reference first and foremost to all the light we literally cannot see: that is, the wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum that are beyond the ability of human eyes to detect (radio waves, of course, being the most relevant). It’s also a metaphorical suggestion that there are countless invisible stories still buried within World War II — that stories of ordinary children, for example, are a kind of light we do not typically see. Ultimately, the title is intended as a suggestion that we spend too much time focused on only a small slice of the spectrum of possibility.” ~ Anthony Doerr
Marie lives with her father in Paris within walking distance of the Museum of Natural History where he works as the master of the locks. 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 in June of 1940, 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’s.
Ten years in the writing, Doerr’s gorgeous combination of soaring imagination with observation is electric. Deftly interweaving the lives of multiple characters, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.
Winner of the 2015 Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction
Finalist for the 2014 National Book Award
#1 New York Times Bestseller
Winner of the Indies Choice Book Award from the American Booksellers Association
Winner of the GoodReads Choice Award for Historical Fiction
Named one of the 10 Best Books of the Year by the New York Times Book Review
Winner of the 2015 Australian International Book Award
Hudson Booksellers 2014 Book of the Year
Named best novel of 2014 by Apple’s iBooks
#2 on Amazon’s Best 100 Books of 2014
2015 Pacific Northwest Book Award Winner
Winner of an Alex Award from the American Library Association
2014 Top of the List Winner for Adult Fiction at BookList
LibraryReads Best Book of 2014
Winner of the 2014 BookBrowse Award for Fiction
President’s Pick at Books-A-Million
Indigo The Best of 2014
Audible.com’s Best Fiction Audiobook of 2014
Voted Best Novel of 2014 at BookPage
#1 on the Top 10 Books of 2014 at BookWorld Australia
A best book of 2014 at Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, NPR’s Fresh Air, Entertainment Weekly, the Daily Beast, Slate.com, San Francisco Chronicle, The Week,Christian Science Monitor, the Washington Post, the Seattle Times, the Oregonian, the Vancouver Sun, the Guardian, AbeBooks, Kirkus, and more.
“’All the Light We Cannot See’: a gem of a World War II novel,” David Laskin, May 4, 2014. Viewed January 20, 2016. The Seattle Times Read the review
“'All the Light We Cannot See,' by Anthony Doerr,” Amanda Vaill, May 5, 2014. January 20, 2016. The Washington Post Read the review
“'All the Light We Cannot See,' by Anthony Doerr,” John Freeman, May 3, 2014.Viewed January 20, 2016. The Boston Globe Read the review
“Light Found in Darkness of Wartime: ’All the Light We Cannot See,’ by Anthony Doerr,” Janet Maslin, April 28, 2014. Viewed January 20, 2016. The New York Times Read the review
“’All the Light We Cannot See’ pinpoint 2 lives in war,” Steph Cha, May 23, 2014. Viewed January 20, 2016. Los Angeles Times Read the review
BOOKLIST “A novel to live in, learn from, and feel bereft over when the last page is turned, Doerr’s magnificently drawn story seems at once spacious and tightly composed. It rests, historically, during the occupation of France during WWII, but brief chapters told in alternating voices give the overall—and long—narrative a swift movement through time and events. We have two main characters, each one on opposite sides in the conflagration that is destroying Europe. Marie-Laure is a sightless girl who lived with her father in Paris before the occupation; he was a master locksmith for the Museum of Natural History. When German forces necessitate abandonment of the city, Marie-Laure’s father, taking with him the museum’s greatest treasure, removes himself and his daughter and eventually arrives at his uncle’s house in the coastal city of Saint-Malo. Young German soldier Werner is sent to Saint-Malo to track Resistance activity there, and eventually, and inevitably, lLMarie-Laure’s and Werner’s paths cross. It is through their individual and intertwined tales that Doerr masterfully and knowledgeably re-creates the deprived civilian conditions of war-torn France and the strictly controlled lives of the military occupiers. A multipronged marketing campaign will make the author’s many fans aware of his newest book, and extensive review coverage is bound to enlist many new fans.” May, 2014.
LIBRARY JOURNAL “Shifting among multiple viewpoints but focusing mostly on blind French teenager Marie-Laure and Werner, a brilliant German soldier just a few years older than she, this novel has the physical and emotional heft of a masterpiece. The main protagonists are brave, sensitive, and intellectually curious, and in another time they might have been a couple. But they are on opposite sides of the horrors of World War II, and their fates ultimately collide in connection with the radio—a means of resistance for the Allies and just one more avenue of annihilation for the Nazis. Set mostly in the final year of the war but moving back to the 1930s and forward to the present, the novel presents two characters so interesting and sympathetic that readers will keep turning the pages hoping for an impossibly happy ending. Marie-Laure and Werner both suffer crushing losses and struggle to survive with dignity amid Hitler’s swath of cruelty and destruction. VERDICT Doerr (The Shell Collector) has received multiple honors for his fiction, including four O. Henry Prizes and the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Award. His latest is highly recommended for fans of Michael Ondaatje’s similarly haunting The English Patient.” February 1, 2014.
PUBLISHER WEEKLY“In 1944, the U.S. Air Force bombed the Nazi-occupied French coastal town of St. Malo. Doerr (Memory Wall) starts his story just before the bombing, then goes back to 1934 to describe two childhoods: those of Werner and Marie-Laure. We meet Werner as a tow-headed German orphan whose math skills earn him a place in an elite Nazi training school—saving him from a life in the mines, but forcing him to continually choose between opportunity and morality. Marie-Laure is blind and grows up in Paris, where her father is a locksmith for the Museum of Natural History, until the fall of Paris forces them to St. Malo, the home of Marie-Laure’s eccentric great-uncle, who, along with his longtime housekeeper, joins the Resistance. Doerr throws in a possibly cursed sapphire and the Nazi gemologist searching for it, and weaves in radio, German propaganda, coded partisan messages, scientific facts, and Jules Verne. Eventually, the bombs fall, and the characters’ paths converge, before diverging in the long aftermath that is the rest of the 20th century. If a book’s success can be measured by its ability to move readers and the number of memorable characters it has, Story Prize–winner Doerr’s novel triumphs on both counts. Along the way, he convinces readers that new stories can still be told about this well-trod period, and that war—despite its desperation, cruelty, and harrowing moral choices—cannot negate the pleasures of the world.” May, 2014.
“Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect. In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancy during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major. Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.” May 6, 2014.
VIDEO & RADIO
Pulitzer Prize winner Anthony Doerr discusses the inspiration for his spectacular novel, All the Light We Cannot See. Simon & Schuster Books. Published on Mar 10, 2014.
Host Marcia Franklin talks with Idaho author Anthony Doerr about his newest bestselling novel, All the Light We Cannot See. Idaho Public Television. Published on July 16, 2014.
Kirkus TV Interview with Best-Selling Author Anthony Doerr. Kirkus Reviews. August 4, 2014.
Anthony Doerr reads from All the Light We Cannot See at the 2014 NBA Finalists Reading. National Book. December 1, 2014.
UA Today - Paul Peppis interviews author Anthony Doerr. Oregon Humanities Center. May 16, 2014
A captivating presentation by Anthony Doerr to The John Adams Institute, Amsterdam with moderator Jonathan Groubert. A jewel of a speech in itself, the question and answer period with the audience contains profound depth and insight. April 7, 2015.
Scribner asked Anthony Doerr to describe how he came to write All the Light We Cannot See. In his delightful retelling, Doerr takes us to the small French town that spurred his decade-long investigation into World War II, radio transmissions, and ultimately, human empathy. Scribner Magazine.