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Literary Friday: All the Light We Cannot See

Friday, June 28, 2024


Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  Today I'm reviewing a book that has been on my TBR List for many years:  All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.  It is the Goodreads Winner for Best Historical Fiction of 2014.  Several of my friends watched the series on Netflix and loved it.  I'd like to see it, too, after having read the book.

According to Goodreads:

Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. 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, Werner Pfennig, an orphan, grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they have never seen or imagined. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments and is enlisted to use his talent to track down the resistance. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.

From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the stunningly beautiful 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.  

My Review:

This is one of the best-written books and best stories I've ever read.  The prose is so lovely, and the story is executed like a beautifully written musical composition, like Claude Debussy's Clair de Lune which is referenced in the novel.  This musical piece is a perfect compliment to the story because of its dreaminess and reflective qualities.  Both Marie-Laure and Werner are reflective of their situations, and although both are highly intelligent, they also each have physical weaknesses:  Marie-Laure is blind, and Werner is very small for his age.  They have absolutely no control nor freedom given their circumstances during the war, and yet they both conscientiously choose to act bravely toward its end.

Don’t you want to be alive before you die?

One reason this novel stands out is how Doerr methodically weaves the narrative back and forth through time and through each storyline: the reader knows what is happening in Marie-Laure's life and Warner's during the same time period, but their stories aren't told chronologically until the climax of the story, when the two meet.  This allows for many instances of foreshadowing: it's little wonder they are drawn together.  It's almost as it the "goddess" responsible for "creating" the museum's mysterious blue diamond predestined these two young people to meet.  I also like the details, especially all the discussion of physics (light and radio waves), and how Marie-Laure's father builds tiny models of their neighborhood in Paris and then Saint-Malo after their flight from Paris.  Each model neighborhood consists of small buildings, and some are actually trick boxes that can contain trinkets or prizes.  The miniature neighborhoods with their buildings and other landmarks serve to teach Marie-Laure how to navigate her environs.  

What do we call visible light? We call it color. But the electromagnetic spectrum runs to zero in one direction and infinity in the other, so really, children, mathematically, all of light is invisible.

Major tropes are bullies and their targets, the weak versus the strong, devastation of war, the manipulation of history and self-interests, and uncommon courage in extraordinary circumstances.  The stories in this book are enthralling, and it is execution is as poignant as Clair de Lune.  I know I keep going on and on about the music, but it's a favorite of mine, and it is such a perfect companion to the book.  I highly recommend All the Light We Cannot See because it is the best World War II historical I've ever read by far, and I've read many of them.

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.

Until next time...

Ricki Jill


  1. Hi, I read it.... it was very powerful indeed. Thank you for your review.

  2. This sounds like an amazing story. I'm so glad you loved it!


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Hello, Lovelies!

I'm Ricki Jill. Welcome! I'm honored that you're reading my blog. I enjoy sharing my creative lifestyle @ The Bookish Dilettante. For more information about my blog, please read the Start Here page. Thank-you for stopping by, and I hope you'll consider following me via email.


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