All The Light We Cannot See Book Review

All The Light We Cannot See: Book Review by Dinh

5 stars


All the Light We Cannot See Book Review







All The Light We Cannot See Review

This historical fiction novel is about two main characters; Marie-Laure, a young French girl and Werner an orphan German boy.

Marie-Laure LeBlanc lives with her father Daniel, in Paris, near to his place of work.  Her father works for the Natural History Museum and is a master locksmith.

Marie-Laure goes blind because of congenital cataracts when she is 6 years old. Her father helps her with her blindness by building a miniature replica of their neighborhood in wood so she can learn to navigate around the city. The Jardin des Plantes is where she starts to learn how to navigate home by counting drains, the intersections and the smell of the plants.

Each year Daniel LeBlanc gives his daughter a birthday present. On her 9th birthday he gives her Jules Verne book, Around the World in Eighty days, in braille.

The German invasion of France in 1940 threatens Marie-Laure and Daniel’s peaceful life. The Museum entrust Daniel with a precious diamond called the ‘Sea of Flames’ to be delivered to a friend of the museum as Daniel prepares to evacuate Paris.

On arriving at Evreux, Daniel discovers that the man he was to give the ‘Sea of Flames’ to is gone and has fled the country and his house is in flames and being ransacked. Daniel decides to go to the only place he knows where he and Marie-Laure would be safe. They go to the coastal town of Saint- Malo where Marie-Laure eccentric great uncle Etienne lives.

Werner Pfennig is an orphan who lives with his sister Jutta in an orphanage, in the mining town Zollverein, Germany. Werner is a talented and gifted boy. He finds a broken radio and discovers that he can fix it by taking it apart and figuring what needs to be fixed. Werner and Jutta stay up late to listen to the radio and are entranced by a Frenchman who comes on talking about science.

Werner’s father died in the coal mines and Werner was told that at the age of 15 he would be sent there too. Werner wants to be a scientist and his fate was changed when he fixed a radio for a Nazi officer who recognized his skills.

Werner is given a chance to get away from the mines when he takes the entrance exams for the National Political Institutes of Education.  He passes the exam and is sent to Schulpforta, an elite Nazi school.

Werner’s technical skills are soon spotted by Dr. Hauptmann. The Dr. Hauptmann starts training him and Werner starts learning how to calculate the target’s broadcast using a triangulation method.

Werner’s skills are tested when he is sent around Europe with a special group that tracks, hunts and kills broadcasters that are anti-German. As he tracks the resistance, it leads him to Saint-Malo.

Eventually, Marie-Laure and Werner’s world collide in 1944.

Entwined in the story is another character called Von Rumpel who is a gem expert for the Reich. Von Rumpel obsession to find the real ‘Sea of Flames’ turns him into the villain of the story.


All The Light We Cannot See Recommendation


This is definitely one of the best books that I have read this year. It’s a must read!

I am not surprised that “All the Light We Cannot See” won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2015 and the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, 2015 as well. It’s also on numerous other award lists.

On the first page of the book, with the chapter “Leaflets” I already knew that this was going to be a fantastic book. It is beautifully written and captured my imagination right away.

The story starts off in 1944 and flashes back into Marie-Laure and Werner’s childhood. It alternates between Marie-Laure and Werner’s tale. Doing this gives me some new information as what has lead up to that part and it captivates me as the suspense builds.

The writing is superb. I love the way Anthony Doerr use of descriptive words and enthrall me. Each chapter gives me a bit more of the story as it moves to the present time. The mystery slowly unfolds and it is very satisfying to find out what happens.

I also like the fairy tale aspect of the book. Doerr incorporates a legend of the ‘Sea of Flames’ which suggest that the keeper of the priceless diamond cannot die but their loved one will do so. Von Rumpel becomes the villain as he searches for this diamond as he is dying in hopes that perhaps it will keep him alive.

I loved the dual story of Marie-Laure and Werner and how Werner becomes the light in Marie-Laure life at the critical part when she needs him the most. He becomes the hero and a beacon for all that is right.

The only negative I have to say about “All the Light We Cannot See” is the ending, specifically the flash forward when Jutta meets Marie-Laure was not what I had expected. Although the encounter was brief between the two, I was not satisfied with how it played out. I was hoping to understand a bit more about Jutta’s feelings and Marie-Laure feelings and sentiment.

This book is a masterpiece for Anthony Doerr and I urge you to get All the Light We Cannot see and read it. I promise you that you will enjoy it.


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14 thoughts on “All The Light We Cannot See Book Review

    1. Hi Peter,
      I am so glad that you will be adding this to your to be read list.

      This is a fantastic book and one that I just loved.

      Doer is a brilliant writer and the story line is unbelievable. It’s in a style that I just enjoy and can’t say how much I loved this book.

      Do let me know how you find it when you get a chance to read it.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. 🙂

  1. I was just wondering because this wasn’t clear to me when I got done reading All The Light We Cannot See. What happened to Marie-Laure’s father when he was imprisoned? Possibly it didn’t say in the book or I just can’t recall it. I do want to go back and reread it though 🙂

    1. Hi Garen,
      Thanks for your comments.
      The imprisonment and disappearance of Daniel LeBlanc was mentioned in the book but Marie-Laure and Etienne never knew for sure what happened to him.
      Marie-Laure and her uncle Etienne spent thousands of francs hiring an investigator to go through the German documents. They found out that he was a prisoner at a labor camp in Breitenau in 1942 and that he contracted influenza in 1943 but that was all they found. They never knew exactly was happened to him.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Hello Dinh,

    I’ve recently been more into reading non-fiction, but there’s always been this latent interest within me for fictional stories which explore ethical themes.

    Your summary of “The Light We Cannot See” reminds me of “The Book Thief”, by Markus Zusak, a light classic which I enjoyed heartily. Perhaps I’ll look into this book as well when I get the chance.

    Anyways, thanks for the great suggestion Dinh. I’ll consider adding this to my list of books to read.

    1. Hi Yangqi,
      Thank you for your comments.
      I have not read ‘The Book Thief’ although I know a movie was made; I did not see that either 🙁
      The book does explore some ethical themes because it was set in war time where people have to make decisions about what is right and wrong. Doerr’s work has been criticized for skirting the issues of the War and not making it more serious. I think the issues are there but that is not the story. The story is about the 2 young kids and how given all the circumstances things can turn out well. In the horror of war there is a light…
      I truly hope you read this because it is a magnificent and deeply moving book.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Hi Dinh,
    This type of reading is something that I haven’t done in a long time and now, with your review of All The Light We Cannot See, you have inspired me to start reading again.
    This seems like a wonderful story and, I have now added it to my must-read list.
    Thank you for giving a thorough review without giving away too much of the story.

    1. Helllo Forrest,
      Thank you for your comments.
      Anthony Doerr’s book is highly acclaimed and has won multiple awards for a reason. His book is fantastic!
      It is a beautifully written novel that took him 10 years to write. The parallel stories with Marie-Laure and Werner and how they converge during World War II is truly a great plot.
      I think you will enjoy it as much as I did. Please let me know!

      Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

    1. Hi Susan,
      Thanks for your comments.
      I love to read a good book that gets me lost in my imagination as well. All the Light We Cannot See is not heavy in my opinion; it’s not light either. The subject matter and war setting environment does make it heavy in the sense that the issues are heavy but the actual reading is not. Anthony Doerr writes wonderfully and his style of writing is so clear and concise in detail that it takes me to another world.

      Thanks for stopping by at

  4. Sounds like an interesting read. Definitely a book you have to settle in to read, not one you can just pick up when you have a few minutes on your train journey. Seems very involved, with quite a cast of characters and interwoven stories. Not something I would normally tend to pick up, but I love a good book I can get lost in, and this might fit the bill.

    1. Hi Hindy,
      Thank you for your comments.
      All the Light we Cannot See is definitely a book that you would want to settle down and read. It is beautifully written and the characters are very interesting, from the blind French girl Marie-Laure, the eccentric agoraphobic uncle Etienne, the scientific prodigy Werner, to the villian Von Rumpel whose only goal is to get his hands on the Sea of Flames.
      The plot all comes together nicely and the pace of the book is even handed that you just get lost in Doerr’s wonderful writing. It took Doerr ten years to write this masterpiece and I can appreciate the amount of research he must have done to have written such a fabulous novel.
      I hope you will let me know what you think when you read this.
      Thanks for stopping by at Arlene’s Book Club!

  5. Hi Andre,
    Thank you for your comment.
    I am not sure what the message Doerr was trying to get across. For me, it was a beautiful story set in the war period with a young blind girl as the heroine and the boy as the hero (even though he was a Hitler Youth) and the villain who tries to find the Sea of Flames. The war brings out each character and defines how they behave and it is not black and white or clear cut as each character develops. Werner’s has to be pushed into understanding his morals. It is at the end of the novel that he makes a decision to live his life as he chooses. He finds his moral compass right when Marie-Laure needs him.
    I like the way the novel raises the issue of altruism. The complex personalities of Von Rumpel and Werner are great examples of how one character becomes evil, and the other character shows that the line between good and evil can change. Their journey in the story highlights that goodness and evil are not inseparable and it’s a choice.

    Thanks for stopping by here and I’ll see you at The Coffee Shop!

  6. Hello, Dinh.

    This book has roused my interest. It would seem that at its heart is the concept of the Elixir of Life – the driving force behind genetics research today.

    I had to stop reading near the bottom so it wasn’t a spoiler for the end – as we say in the UK. This is going on my future reading list so many thanks. My next problem will be actually reading the things on my reading list and by the time I do we may well have the elixir of Life already.

    All the best – and I will seriously think about getting this title – it sounds really good.

    Thanks again – Andre, “Three Sugars Please”

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