All The Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr


Chosen by Jodie

A WWII novel about young victims of the war and the unique ways in which they communicate

❝ During the occupation of Paris a young girl named Marie-Laure loses her sight and relies on a miniature model of the city built by her father to navigate the streets.

Motherless, she and her father end up fleeing to Saint Malo to stay with her uncle and his housekeeper. But soon the bombs start and she finds herself alone in the house, with only a new model of the surrounding area to establish her way.

At the same time a young orphan named Werner is enlisted by the Germans as a solider and proves particularly useful at working with transmitting devices. Asked to hunt out any enemy transmission, Werner refuses to report the sweet voice of Marie-Laure.

Along with the childrens’ stories is that of Marie-Laure’s father Daniel who is a locksmith and keeper of the keys at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle. In an attempt to hide the location of a large, blue diamond, named Sea of Flames, he creates four replicas. The original is said to protect the owner but kill and maim their nearest and dearest. The Germans are determined to track it down and their investigations lead them to Marie-Laure.

All The Light We Cannot See won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2015.

You know the greatest lesson of history? It’s that history is whatever the victors say it is. That’s the lesson. Whoever wins, that’s who decides the history. We act in our own self-interest. Of course we do. Name me a person or a nation who does not. The trick is figuring out where your interests are.

❝ I was instantly captivated with this carefully constructed novel by Anthony Doerr. Ultimately Doerr wanted to write a book that reminded us of the magic of radio and liked the idea of a boy trapped listening to a story over the radio. Secondly Doerr had visited Saint Malo and was fascinated by its devastating history during WW2 and thirdly he was compelled to write about the theft of France’s precious artefacts. Over seven years Doerr braided the lives of the characters and his three base ideas together spanning two separate timescales. The scenes were beautifully intricate in their descriptions. Doerr’s focus of the novel was unlike any other WWII story I have read. He gave us a real insight into the sufferings of the children affected. It was both a heartbreaking and heartwarming novel that I would absolutely recommend. – Jodie

❝ What a thoroughly enjoyable page turning story. I think I’ve found my favourite book for the year. I enjoyed the time switching method as we learned more about the realistic characters with the tension rising as the story unfolded. Every word seemed necessary and important with short punchy chapters making it an easy albeit deeply saddening at times, read. The Sea of Flames added another dimension with its supposed curse and mystical nature. I would recommend this book to anyone. – Jo

❝ This was a WW2 novel with a few slightly different twists including a long-lost gem, disabilities, and ground-breaking technology. I found the author’s writing very evocative, particularly the time that Marie-Laurie spent in Saint-Malo with her uncle and his housekeeper. One disappointment for me was the drawn out sexual violence scene – an unnecessarily graphic addition that added nothing of value to the story. – Suzy

❝ I am a fan of personal war stories so this was my cup of tea. I think knowing that war stories are most often portrayals of true events astound and intrigue me. And this is no different, knowing a lost girl and a enslaved boy are breaking rules that could see them killed to keep in touch over the airwaves. I loved the aspect of blindness, of the miniature city and navigating ones away around the truth. This is a lengthy book but the short chapters provide a sense of urgency and though there are many perfect places to stop reading for the night, I hardly wanted to.” – Rachel


Published 2014
531 pages

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