This epic tale of WWII culminating in the battle for Saint-Malo focuses on two unusual characters. Marie Laure is the blind daughter of the keeper of the keys for the Museum of Natural History in Paris. Werner is an exceptionally bright German orphan with a natural talent for science, in particular radios (a very helpful trait during wartime).
Marie Laure’s father constructs a model city of their neighborhood, every storm drain, doorway, and tree represented, to help his daughter feel her surroundings. Rumors of war become reality, German soldiers taking over France. Marie Laure and her father make a perilous journey, retreating to the home of their uncle in Saint-Malo.
Werner and his sister Jutta grow up in an orphanage. Werner’s ability to fix just about everything electronic, and his amazing ability with radios, soon comes to the attention of the German hierarchy, earning him a place in a prestigious school. Werner wants only to learn, to do something important with that knowledge, to be more than a poor orphan. He is seduced by the rare opportunity of attending the academy. As he tries to fit in, he finds himself a party to actions beyond his control that taint his soul. His sister Jutta is an early dissenter of the Third Reich. She listens to forbidden radio programs, learns of the atrocities being committed, and is appalled.
Werner and Marie Laure’s stories will converge in a way neither could have anticipated. I liked the way the story is told through the view so these two main protagonists. Werner is a likeable kid, bright and eager. The way the Nazi regime subsumes his good nature, is chilling. Marie Laure is an intrepid girl, forced by circumstances to bravery. This is an innovative, thought provoking, deeply moving way to tell the story of WWII.— Deon Stonehouse
May 2014 Indie Next List
“The French girl cannot see, but she can hear, feel, and explore the world around her like a budding naturalist. The German boy has no parents, but he teaches himself how coils of copper can receive lessons of love and learning. It's World War II, however, and the potential of thousands of children will be unrealized or thwarted. Will a mythical gemstone save them or unite them? Gorgeously written, Doerr's epic tale brings alive the beauty of two souls, their quest for learning, the turbulent times they cannot control, and the rock that mysteriously guides their fate.”
— Harriett Logan, Loganberry Books, Shaker Hts, OH
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, "All the Light We Cannot See" is a magnificent, deeply moving novel from a writer "whose sentences never fail to thrill" ("Los Angeles Times").