All the Light We Cannot See By Anthony Doerr

 

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, May 2014: Does the world need yet another novel about WWII? It does when the novel is as inventive and beautiful as this one by Anthony Doerr. In fact, All the Light We Cannot See–while set mostly in Germany and France before and during the war–is not really a “war novel”. Yes, there is fear and fighting and disappearance and death, but the author’s focus is on the interior lives of his two characters. Marie Laure is a blind 14-year-old French girl who flees to the countryside when her father disappears from Nazi-occupied Paris. Werner is a gadget-obsessed German orphan whose skills admit him to a brutal branch of Hitler Youth. Never mind that their paths don’t cross until very late in the novel, this is not a book you read for plot (although there is a wonderful, mysterious subplot about a stolen gem). This is a book you read for the beauty of Doerr’s writing– “Abyss in her gut, desert in her throat, Marie-Laure takes one of the cans of food…”–and for the way he understands and cherishes the magical obsessions of childhood. Marie Laure and Werner are never quaint or twee. Instead they are powerful examples of the way average people in trying times must decide daily between morality and survival. –Sara Nelson

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*Starred Review* 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-Louise 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-Louise’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, Marie-Louise’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.High-Demand Backstory: 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. –Brad Hooper
“Exquisite…Mesmerizing…Nothing short of brilliant.” (Alice Evans Portland Oregonian)

“Hauntingly beautiful.” (Janet Maslin The New York Times)

“History intertwines with irresistible fiction—secret radio broadcasts, a cursed diamond, a soldier’s deepest doubts—into a richly compelling, bittersweet package.” (Mary Pols People (3 1/2 stars))

“Anthony Doerr again takes language beyond mortal limits.” (Elissa Schappell Vanity Fair)

“The whole enthralls.” (Good Housekeeping)

“Enthrallingly told, beautifully written…Every piece of back story reveals information that charges the emerging narrative with significance, until at last the puzzle-box of the plot slides open to reveal the treasure hidden inside.” (Amanda Vaill Washington Post)

“Stupendous…A beautiful, daring, heartbreaking, oddly joyous novel.” (David Laskin The Seattle Times)

“Stunning and ultimately uplifting… Doerr’s not-to-be-missed tale is a testament to the buoyancy of our dreams, carrying us into the light through the darkest nights.” (Entertainment Weekly)

“Doerr has packed each of his scenes with such refractory material that All the Light We Cannot See reflects a dazzling array of themes….Startlingly fresh.” (John Freeman The Boston Globe)

“Gorgeous… moves with the pace of a thriller… Doerr imagines the unseen grace, the unseen light that, occasionally, surprisingly, breaks to the surface even in the worst of times.” (Dan Cryer San Francisco Chronicle)

“Incandescent… a luminous work of strife and transcendence… with characters as noble as they are enthralling” (Hamilton Cain O, the Oprah magazine)

“Perfectly captured…Doerr writes sentences that are clear-eyed, taut, sweetly lyrical.” (Josh Cook Minneapolis Star Tribune)

“A beautiful, expansive tale…Ambitious and majestic.” (Steph Cha Los Angeles Times)

“This tough-to-put-down book proves its worth page after lyrical page…Each and every person in this finely spun assemblage is distinct and true.” (Sharon Peters USA Today)

“Doerr is an exquisite stylist; his talents are on full display.” (Alan Cheuse NPR)

“Vivid…[All the Light We Cannot See] brims with scrupulous reverence for all forms of life. The invisible light of the title shines long after the last page.” (Tricia Springstubb Cleveland Plain Dealer)

“Intricate… A meditation on fate, free will, and the way that, in wartime, small choices can have vast consequences.” (New Yorker)

“Doerr deftly guides All the Light We Cannot See toward the day Werner’s and Marie-Laure lives intersect during the bombing of Saint-Malo in what may be his best work to date.” (Yvonne Zipp Christian Science Monitor)

“To open a book by Anthony Doerr is to open a door on humanity…His sentences shimmer…His paragraphs are luminous with bright, sparkling beauty.” (Martha Anne Toll Washington Independent Review of Books)

“Endlessly bold and equally delicate…An intricate miracle of invention, narrative verve, and deep research lightly held, but above all a miracle of humanity….Anthony Doerr’s novel celebrates—and also accomplishes—what only the finest art can: the power to create, reveal, and augment experience in all its horror and wonder, heartbreak and rapture.” (Shelf Awareness)

“Magnificent.” (Carmen Callil The Guardian (UK))

“Intricately structured…All the Light We Cannot See is a work of art and of preservation.” (Jane Ciabattari BBC)

“A revelation.” (Michael Magras BookReporter.com)

“Anthony Doerr writes beautifully… A tour de force.” (Elizabeth Reed Deseret Morning News)

“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. . . . Doerr masterfully and knowledgeably recreates the deprived civilian conditions of war-torn France and the strictly controlled lives of the military occupiers.” (Booklist (starred review))

“Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))

“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. He convinces readers…that war—despite its desperation, cruelty, and harrowing moral choices—cannot negate the pleasures of the world.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

“This novel has the physical and emotional heft of a masterpiece…[All the Light We Cannot See] presents two characters so interesting and sympathetic that readers will keep turning the pages hoping for an impossibly happy ending…Highly recommended for fans of Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient.” (Evelyn Beck Library Journal (starred review))

“What a delight! This novel has exquisite writing and a wonderfully suspenseful story. A book you’ll tell your friends about…” (Frances Itani, author of Deafening)

“This jewel of a story is put together like a vintage timepiece, its many threads coming together so perfectly. Doerr’s writing and imagery are stunning. It’s been a while since a novel had me under its spell in this fashion. The story still lives on in my head.” (Abraham Verghese, author of Cutting for Stone)

All the Light We Cannot See is a dazzling, epic work of fiction. Anthony Doerr writes beautifully about the mythic and the intimate, about snails on beaches and armies on the move, about fate and love and history and those breathless, unbearable moments when they all come crashing together.” (Jess Walter, author of Beautiful Ruins)

“Doerr sees the world as a scientist, but feels it as a poet. He knows about everything—radios, diamonds, mollusks, birds, flowers, locks, guns—but he also writes a line so beautiful, creates an image or scene so haunting, it makes you think forever differently about the big things—love, fear, cruelty, kindness, the countless facets of the human heart. Wildly suspenseful, structurally daring, rich in detail and soul, Doerr’s new novel is that novel, the one you savor, and ponder, and happily lose sleep over, then go around urging all your friends to read—now.” (J.R. Moehringer, author of Sutton and The Tender Bar)

“A tender exploration of this world’s paradoxes; the beauty of the laws of nature and the terrible ends to which war subverts them; the frailty and the resilience of the human heart; the immutability of a moment and the healing power of time. The language is as expertly crafted as the master locksmith’s models in the story, and the settings as intricately evoked. A compelling and uplifting novel.” (M.L. Stedman, author of The Light Between Oceans)

“The craftsmanship of Doerr’s book is rooted in his ability to inhabit the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner…[A] fine novel.” (Steve Novak Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

“Beautifully written… Soulful and addictive.” (Chris Stuckenschneider The Missourian)

“Doerr conjures up a vibrating, crackling world…Intricately, beautifully crafted.” (Rebecca Kelley Bustle.com)

“There is so much in this book. It is difficult to convey the complexity, the detail, the beauty and the brutality of this simple story.” (Carole O’Brien Aspen Daily News)

“Sometimes a novel doesn’t merely transport. It immerses, engulfs, keeps you caught within its words until the very end, when you blink and remember there’s a world beyond the pages. All the Light We Cannot See is such a book… Vibrant, poignant, delicately exquisite. Despite the careful building of time and place (so vivid you fall between the pages), it’s not a story of history; it’s a story of people living history.” (Historical Novel Society)

 

All the Light We Cannot See Book

WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE
From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the beautiful, stunningly ambitious 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.

Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. 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, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.

Doerr’s “stunning sense of physical detail and gorgeous metaphors” (San Francisco Chronicle) are dazzling. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, he illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another. Ten years in the writing, a National Book Award finalist, All the Light We Cannot See is a magnificent, deeply moving novel from a writer “whose sentences never fail to thrill” (Los Angeles Times).