All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See

A Novel

Book Club Kit - 2017
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"From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, a stunningly ambitious and beautiful novel 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 within walking distance of the Museum of Natural History where he works as the master of the locks (there are thousands of locks in the museum). When she is six, she goes blind, and her father builds her a model of their neighborhood, every house, every manhole, so she can memorize it with her fingers and navigate the real streets with her feet and cane. When the Germans occupy Paris, father and daughter flee to Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast, where Marie-Laure's agoraphobic great uncle lives in a tall, narrow house by the sea wall. In another world in Germany, an orphan boy, Werner, grows up with his younger sister, Jutta, both enchanted by a crude radio Werner finds. He becomes a master at building and fixing radios, a talent that wins him a place at an elite and brutal military academy and, ultimately, makes him a highly specialized tracker of the Resistance. Werner travels through the heart of Hitler Youth to the far-flung outskirts of Russia, and finally into Saint-Malo, where his path converges with Marie-Laure."--Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : Scribner, 2017
Edition: First Scribner trade paperback edition
ISBN: 9781501173219
Description: 10 identical volumes in tote bag ; 36 x 45 x 16 cm

Opinion

From Library Staff

Read at Cork & Table--modern American food with French influences. Retail wine, beer, cheese and prepared foods.

List - The Time Keeper
CRRL_JohnGaines Aug 05, 2017

From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, a stunningly ambitious and beautiful novel 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. (catalog description)

Marie Laure is a blind French girl, who has learned to find her way in the nearby streets with a carved model of the neighborhood. When she and her father flee to live with her grandfather in Saint-Malo, her father carves the new city before vanishing. Meanwhile, Werner, a teen who works with N... Read More »

Read this at CORK & TABLE - French-inspired, modern American food. Retail wine, beer, cheese, and prepared foods.

For a generation of Europeans, the War absorbed their childhoods and molded their lives seemingly irrevocably. The paths of a blind French girl and a mechanically gifted member of the Hitler Youth eventually cross in the French coastal town of Saint-Malo. Also available on audio, as an eBook, an... Read More »


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ErikaCh
Jan 24, 2018

I can understand why this book got very highly spoken about. But this book will not be my first pick among all the WW2 history novel.
For sure, it is superbly well written. To me, some paragraphs or even chapters are just redundant. The story itself lack a tempo/twist to it. Only the last 100 pages showed some tense. Also, some of the words maybe just too difficult for me to grab the beauty since English is not my native language.
I wasn't able to finish the book before it's due. So I turned to audio book. It is my first trying audio "reading". It enabled me to finish the book.

m
MaggieBrooklyn
Jan 23, 2018

I don't have a lot of time to read these days, so when I do read a book, it's got to be good. Literary or historical fiction is my favorite, and I usually pick something that has been well-recommended and has great reviews. Well, this book did not disappoint.

I read this a few years ago, and I think it's been one of my favorite books in recent years. Totally deserved the Pulitzer Prize. This is a fascinating story about these two characters, how they survived through really tough times. The story was very sad but also poignant and uplifting. Very well written. So engaging it was hard to put down. You want to read through to see what happens to the characters, but you also want to savor every page.

k
Kathi92
Jan 12, 2018

I am half way through the book and I am hooked. Short chapters (2-4pages) and the story about different sides and different perspectives during WW2 is amazingly to read and experience. The people are intriguing and you want to know what happens next. I didn't mind the jumps in time back and fourth which I usually dislike in books because you can lose track but it was easy to follow and had a good structure. The writing style is very detailed, maybe because Marie-Laure is blind and therefore a lot of things are described how she would perceive it.

All in all, I cannot put the book down and need to finish it. Maybe it is because I am German and even more intrigued by the history of Europe and what happened from people's perspective rather than history books.

I recommend this book to everyone because I would have not thought that I would be interested but I am very much.

h
hikerbean
Jan 11, 2018

One of my favorite books of all time. I've never suggested this book to anyone who didn't call and thank me for it. The writing is phenomenal, character development is fantastic, and the plot is exceptional. I honestly don't have enough superlatives to describe this work. I saw him speak at Seattle University during the Search for Meaning Book Festival. I bawled through his entire speech. He's an amazing human being and his unmatched curiosity makes for a superb intellect and skillful mastery of the writing craft!

Librarian_Deb Dec 03, 2017

Phenomenal. It's an interweaving story, one thread follows a young girl -blind and living in Paris with her father who works for the Museum of Natural History. This girl, Marie-Laure has learned to navigate the city through the intricate models her father builds. Unfortunately, they are living during World War II and when the Nazi occupation begins Marie's and her father have to flee Paris. They travel to Saint-Marlo, an walled city right next to the sea where Marie learns to navigate a new set of streets and to get along with her eccentric Great Uncle.
The other thread of the story follows Werner, an orphan boy growing up in Germany. He begins to develop an intense interest in radios - an interest that leads him to discovering extraordinary broadcasts that come from France, and an ability for repairing radios that is notices by the local authorities. They decide to send him to a special school where he can develop his skills - and be groomed to enter the German military machine.
Eventually the stories of these two young people comes together in a remarkable way. But I cannot by merely relating what happens in the book convey haw beautifully the story is told, how much the characters came alive in my mind, and how my heart was touched by their ups and downs. I would highly suggest if you like reading at all to read this remarkable book and find out for yourself what a treasure it is.

f
finn75
Dec 03, 2017

A gripping read on the experience of individuals on both sides caught up in World War II. Deserves the accolades it got.

s
smiliesar
Nov 20, 2017

Such a great book that captures the thoughts of multiple sides during World War 2

r
rubyal32
Oct 30, 2017

Fantastic read. One of the best historical fiction novels I've read. I found it to be a book that was hard to put down, and fell in love with both main characters. A book I will recommend to all avid readers.

h
hollybell
Oct 17, 2017

I don't know how this book won a Pulitzer Prize. I thought it was WAY too long and ponderous and the back and forth between story lines and time frames did not contribute to the story. By the final third I was itching for the book to end and put me and the characters out of their misery. And it doesn't really end, it just kind of dribbles away. It also suffers from the
Forest Gump effect of creating a character with a physical disability who is extraordinary in all other ways -- extra smart, extra caring, extra brave. Disappointing.

b
bell_ugh
Oct 15, 2017

Amazing synopsis, intriguing cover, anticlimactic and slow story. I had to force myself to read this book after the first 200 pages (out of 531!). It took me 2 months to finish and my favorite character was killed off. Isn't that great?

The rising action/main story was very very VERY slow and was anticlimactic (pretty much 80% of the book). There were a lot of unnecessary chapters and segments that were repetitive of the last. I will admit that All the Light We Cannot See had good falling action (10% of the book) since it was super emotional. It was also the point where the story ties a clean knot between the character development and plot. I felt like the book would be better if the end of the book was the falling action instead of the character epilogue (the last 10%). All the Light We Cannot See is more of a character study, like Six of Crows, if you have read that.

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Quotes

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s
shayshortt
Jan 12, 2017

Time is a slippery thing: lose hold of it once, and its string might sail out of your hands forever.

TSCPL_ChrisB Jun 06, 2016

But it is not bravery; I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don't you do the same?

j
jimg2000
Mar 15, 2016

The ending thought:
And is it so hard to believe that souls might also travel those paths? That her father and Etienne and Madame Manec and the German boy named Werner Pfennig might harry the sky in flocks, like egrets, like terns, like starlings? That great shuttles of souls might fly about, faded but audible if you listen closely enough? They flow above the chimneys, ride the sidewalks, slip through your jacket and shirt and breastbone and lungs, and pass out through the other side, the air a library and the record of every life lived, every sentence spoken, every word transmitted still reverberating within it. Every hour, she thinks, someone for whom the war was memory falls out of the world. We rise again in the grass. In the flowers. In songs.

j
jimg2000
Mar 15, 2016

At her feet, the snails go about their work: chewing, scavenging, sleeping. Their mouths, Etienne has taught her, contain something like thirty teeth per row, eighty rows of teeth, two and a half thousand teeth per snail, grazing, scratching, rasping.
===
Etienne knew artillerymen who could peer through field glasses and discern their shells’ damage by the colors thrown skyward. Gray was stone. Brown was soil. Pink was flesh.
===
All your life you wait, and then it finally comes, and are you ready?
===
To men like that, time was a surfeit, a barrel they watched slowly drain. When really, he thinks, it’s a glowing puddle you carry in your hands; you should spend all your energy protecting it. Fighting for it. Working so hard not to spill one single drop.
===
“Mutti, what goes around the world but stays in a corner?”
“I don’t know, Max.”
“A postage stamp.

j
jimg2000
Mar 15, 2016

“Is it right,” Jutta says, “to do something only because everyone else is doing it?”
===
“Did you know,” says Marie-Laure, “that the chance of being hit by lightning is one in one million? Dr. Geffard taught me that.” “In one year or in one lifetime?” “I’m not sure.” “You should have asked.”
===
“Your problem, Werner,” says Frederick, “is that you still believe you own your life.”
===
Madame Ruelle says, “So the Gautier girl wants to get married. The family has to melt all its jewelry to get the gold for the wedding ring. The gold gets taxed thirty percent by occupation authorities. Then the jeweler’s work is taxed another thirty percent. By the time they’ve paid him, there’s no ring left!”
===
“But minds are not to be trusted. Minds are always drifting toward ambiguity, toward questions, when what you really need is certainty. Purpose. Clarity. Do not trust your minds.”

j
jimg2000
Mar 15, 2016

...It’s not a person you wish to fight, Madame, it’s a system. How do you fight a system?” “You try.”
===
“Can deaf people hear their heartbeat, Frau Elena?”
“Why doesn’t glue stick to the inside of the bottle, Frau Elena?”
===
...plants eat light, in much the way we eat food.
===
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.
===
Open your eyes, concludes the man, and see what you can with them before they close forever,...
===
There are ninety-six thousand kilometers of blood vessels in the human body, children! Almost enough to wind around the earth two and a half times . . .

j
jimg2000
Mar 15, 2016

Seems the entire book has been quoted in goodreads, but may be exceptions:
The hotel’s fourth floor, where garden rooms with French balconies open directly onto the ramparts, has become home to an aging high-velocity anti-air gun called an 88 that can fire twenty-one-and-a-half-pound shells nine miles.
===
Saint-Malo --- Up and down the lanes, the last unevacuated townspeople wake, groan, sigh. Spinsters, prostitutes, men over sixty. Procrastinators, collaborators, disbelievers, drunks. Nuns of every order. The poor. The stubborn. The blind.
===
Marie-Laure imagines the electromagnetic waves traveling into and out of Michel’s machine, bending around them, just as Etienne used to describe, except now a thousand times more crisscross the air than when he lived—maybe a million times more. Torrents of text conversations, tides of cell conversations, of television programs, of e-mail, vast networks of fiber and wire interlaced above and beneath the city, passing through buildings, ...

m
Magicworld
Aug 21, 2015

“Your problem, Werner,” says Frederick, “is that you still believe you own your life.”

m
Magicworld
Aug 21, 2015

“Time is a slippery thing: lose hold of it once, and its string might sail out of your hands forever.”

M_ALCOTT May 21, 2015

" We all come into existence as a single cell, smaller than a speck of dust. Much smaller. Divide. Multiply. Add and subtract. Matter changes hands, atoms flow in and out, molecules pivot, proteins stitch together, mitochondria send out their oxidative dictates; we begin as a microscopic electrical swarm. The lungs the brain the heart. Forty weeks later, six trillion cells get crushed in the vise of our mother's birth canal and we howl. Then the world starts in on us."-excerpt from "All the Light We Cannot See"

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a
anneholmquist
Dec 04, 2017

blind jewish girl in WWII, has blue diamond verybody is looking for. Intersects with young German wunderkind.

l
Liber_vermis
May 19, 2017

This novel has an "X" shaped plot. One leg follows the life of orphan Werner Pfennig who hopes to escape the poor, short life of a coal miner in western Germany. His quick-minded understanding of radio technology wins entry to a Nazi youth training school. He spends the Second World War pinpointing and destroying clandestine radio transmitters. The other leg of the plot follows the life of Marie-Laure LeBlanc, a blind girl, who thrives in the Museum of Natural History in Paris where her father works. Forced to flee Paris by the invading Germans, the two narratives cross on a late summer day in 1944.

s
shayshortt
Jan 12, 2017

In 1934, at the age of six, Marie-Laure LeBlanc lost her eyesight. Her father, Daniel LeBlanc, is a locksmith at the Museum of Natural History in Paris. He builds Marie-Laure a scale model of their neighbourhood to help her navigate, and she spends her days with him at the Museum, reading Jules Verne in Braille. But their peaceful life is upset by the German invasion, and they flee the Nazi occupation of Paris, taking refuge in the coastal town of Saint-Malo. Unbeknownst to Marie-Laure, the Museum has entrusted her father with an item from its collection. What Daniel LeBlanc does not know is if it is the real artefact, or one of the three duplicates that was made to serve as a decoy. Meanwhile, in Germany, Werner Pfennig is orphan who lost his mother to illness and his father to the coal mines of Zollverein. He has a passion for radios and math. When war comes, these skills draw him to the attention of the Reich, and he is selected to attend a special military prep school where talented young Germans are indoctrinated into National Socialism.

m
maggielo
Aug 19, 2015

yng girl goes blind, flees nazis, meets orphan

n
novelust
Aug 10, 2015

All the Light We Cannot See is the beautiful story, set in WWII, of how the lives a blind French girl and orphan German soldier move slowly closer to one another and are destined to collide.

p
pattyloucor67
May 13, 2015

What an excellent book! At first, the thought of reading 500+ pages seemed daunting! But, Anthony Doerr constructs a beautiful work (with short chapters) and creates characters that endear themselves to you - I found I had trouble putting the book down. The story takes place during WWII, is told through the eyes of a blind French girl and a teenage Boy whose lives take different courses. Werner Pfennig, an orphan, and his sister survive in a coal-mining complex. It is Werner's exceptional aptitude for making and fixing radios that land him in a prestigious Reich military school. In Paris, Marie-Laure LeBlanc lives with her father, a locksmith employed at the Natural HistoryMuseum. Being blind, Marie-Laure spend her days with her father, learning from the feel of shells and organisms. As the war escalates, Marie and her father must flee Paris and love with an uncle in Saint-Malo, a town along the Atlantic Ocean. The recurring element of a fabulous diamond being pursued by the Nazis and Marie-Laure's father's role in keeping it out the their hands adds suspense. I loved how the lives of the two main characters develop, despite the desolation of the war - and how these two lives interesect, however briefly. A very worthwhile read!

b
bixby
Jun 23, 2014

1934-1944 France
A blind girl trying to survive the German occupation and Allied shelling of Saint Malo on the coast of France, a young, reluctant German soldier tasked with finding radio transmissions, and a German officer searching for a diamond which he believes will cure his illness.....fantastic manipulation of characters and events to bring them and the war to an end.

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taupe_skunk_4
Aug 27, 2016

taupe_skunk_4 thinks this title is suitable for 10 years and over

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