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All The Light We Cannot See Paperback – 17 September 2021
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NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
WINNER OF THE CARNEGIE MEDAL FOR FICTION
A beautiful, stunningly ambitious 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.
Doerr’s gorgeous combination of soaring imagination with observation is electric. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr 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 his most ambitious and dazzling work.
'Far more than a conventional war story, It's a tightly focused epic revolving around two unusual main characters … Doerr paints with a rich palette, using prose that resonates deeply and conveys the ephemera of daily existence along with high drama, sadness and hope … A bittersweet and moving novel that lingers in the mind' Clifford Beal, Daily Mail
‘TIt is easy to understand why Doerr’s book is regarded by many as an epic and a masterpiece’ Justin Cartwright, Observer
‘This novel will be a piece of luck for anyone with a long plane journey or beach holiday ahead. It is such a page-turner, entirely absorbing … [Doerr’s] attention to detail is magnificent’ Carmen Callil, Guardian
‘Doerr’s novel seems poised somewhere between the sublime and the twee. It very much lands on the right side of things, thanks to the author’s eye for detail and the suspenseful rhythm of his chapters ― often only a page or two ― which expertly cut back and forth in time. He can bring a scene to life in a single paragraph … Delicate and moving … the novel takes hold and will not easily let go’ Lidija Haas, The Times
‘Boy meets girl in Anthony Doerr’s hauntingly beautiful new book, but the circumstances are as elegantly circuitous as they can be’ Janet Maslin, The New York Times
‘I’m not sure I will read a better novel this year … Enthrallingly told, beautifully written and so emotionally plangent that some passages bring tears’ Amanda Vaill, Washington Post
‘This jewel of a story is put together like a vintage timepiece … Doerr’s writing and imagery are stunning. It’s been a while since a novel had me under its spell in this fashion’ Abraham Verghese
About the Author
Anthony Doerr is the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel All the Light We Cannot See, currently in development as a Netflix limited series. He is also the author of two short story collections, Memory Wall and The Shell Collector; the novel About Grace; and the memoir Four Seasons in Rome, all published by 4th Estate. He has won five O. Henry Prizes, the Rome Prize, the New York Public Library's Young Lions Award, the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Fiction, a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Story Prize. Doerr lives in Boise, Idaho, with his wife and two sons.
- Publisher : 4th Estate GB (17 September 2021)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 544 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0008485194
- ISBN-13 : 978-0008485191
- Dimensions : 12.9 x 3.4 x 19.8 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 3,631 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Top reviews from Australia
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The characters are wonderful with the main two both brave souls.
Werner Pfennig has a sister, Jutta, Werner fines he can fix wireless, he and Jutta find a station broadcasting lessons on science. Once people know, all call on Werner to fix their wireless. With war braking out Werner knows he wont go down the mines. So he does a hard cause which he passes that lead him down a place of darkness.
Then there's young Marie - Laure who sadly goes blind. With the help of her loving father she is taught brail from books he buys her and ways for finding herself around with her cain by counting. As the casualties of war start, Marie - Laure is taken to her great uncle Elienne LeBlain's place. When Marie-Laure's father goes out one day, never to return, it's Elienne the one who always hides away from the past, brings life back to Marie-Laure and himself, who has began to love his great niece. One day he takes her to the 6th floor where he shows her his wireless hidden inside a wardrobe at the back. Sometime later, finding herself all alone when her uncle doesn't return she goes to the wardrobe where she reads out her books and plays music. It at the ending of the war and while playing with the wireless, Werner hears it. They go out looking, Werner finds Marie-Laure he says to her..."You are very brave ", She lowers the bucket "What's is your name?. He tells her, When I lost my sight, Werner, people said I was very brave. When my father left, people said I was brave. But it's not brave, I had no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don't you do the sane?"
He says."Not in many years. But today. Today maybe I did",
It was from Marie -Laure that Werner learns out the lessons on science , he and his sister listerned to came from, Marie - Laure's grandfather all that time ago.
A very sad read, that makes war, so sad to those who were too young, as these were.
Highly recommended read.
It is gauche to lift an incident ("He fixes radio by thinking") straight out of Nobel Prize winner Richard Feynman s autobiographical stories and assign it to a child half Feynman s age at the time, as if to make Werner twice as smart.
The radio blunders are also historical. Elementary research would have shown that Grundig did not make radios until after the War. It is anomalous to have a Nazi officer own an American Philco while German Telefunkin and Siemans radios of the period were just as complex, and as emphasised in the book, it was unpatriotic to own a US one. Dirty cardboard cutout Russian rapists have crude and contemptible radios. In fact, Russian army field radios were either supplied by the US or close copies. None were "milled out of steel".
Though Werner s radio location team hunted in areas with the German armies and SS extermination squads that massacred prisoners, Jews, Poles and Russian civilians alike, there is no mention of this.
The historical setting of wartime France, particularly after 1943, is unrealistic because the roles of the Resistance, collaborators and the Vichy government are ignored. As D-day approached it would have been dangerous for lone German officers and soldiers to wander about, especially if they were robbing French civilians. No acts of sabotage are recounted, yet the Hotel of the Bees which housed an 88 never lost power or supplies. By the way, bumblebees do not make honey.
This book has been very favourably reviewed, which is well deserved.
My instincts had told me that these two main characters would somehow connect, but it was in a way that was totally unexpected. There are many underlying stories interwoven:- the journeys of Marie-Laure's beloved Papa and his uncle Etienne; the mysterious diamond, "The Sea of Flames"; Werner's sister, Jutta; the "giant" soldier, Volkheimer; Werner's gentle friend, Frederick; and the relentlessly obsessive Von Rumpel. "All the Light We Cannot See" is a story about good, evil, courage, survival, hope for the future, and unexpected connections. Many images stayed with me long after the story ended. Five stars is not enough for this engrossing classic.
Top reviews from other countries
The book is nearly 600 pages long. All made up of very short chapters of 2-3 pages long. Just as you start to get into the story, the next chapter takes you into a completely different time period without any warning or prelude! In places, the book unexpectedly introduces random new characters in a completely unconnected fashion (and only for one chapter of 2-3 pages!) before the story jumps again to the main characters in the following chapter.
I am not a stranger to difficult to read books or to stories made up of multiple strands and lifetimes of many characters across decades and sometimes even centuries of history but I hated this book!
The author's writing has been ruined by his inability to tell the story in a compelling way that would be coherent and enjoyable to read! Such a shame but this is one hugely disappointing read!
Is happy a word to be used when talking about this book, this time period? Maybe not but the author did make me very happy. It’s very important to me that I feel connected to the characters and transported to places in the books and it did that and more.
The book jumps from time periods of Marie-Laure’s and Werner’s life, from their teen years to their younger years and back and forth. Sometimes it was a bit confusing to keep track of it, sometimes because it was an e-book, it was even frustrating to not be able to flip back to the pages I lost my thread. (An actual paperback really helps with this, it just gives me satisfaction if nothing else.)
Everything about the book made me fall in love with it. There are the usual World War II horrors and you can’t escape them, most times, I was so acutely uncomfortable with the scene but I moved ahead anyway. This book is an absolute must-read if you like reading about the World War II. Not because it’s super informative or because there’s tons of other things that could make you relate to the people of the times more. It’s more to understand how it felt for the children, for those who grew up in Germany and had to join Hitler’s army. For the children who had nobody left, those who couldn’t do much for themselves. Marie-Laure and Werner might be fictional but there were real people who were in their places at some point. They must have faced countless problems and horrors.
It is that feeling that makes me think that people should really read it.
I have a lot of wonderful things to say about it and I could say it but there’s also the one bit that I felt almost unnecessary in the book. Yes, the hunt for the Sea of Flames. The diamond. That part always felt unnecessary and almost tacked on as if it was an afterthought. I am not saying I didn’t enjoy the fantasy of it and there was a realistic part to it but at the same time, it just didn’t click with the rest of the book.
However that does not negate all the awesome things about this book and so, this remains a five-star book.
I would recommend it to anyone who loves to read World War II fiction or who wants to see how language can be elevated to this level. If you wanna read in leisure, you totally can!! This book, despite it being based during the World War II, has an almost unhurried pace to it. It’s just me who wouldn’t stop reading.
And if you still have any doubts about this book, it’s worth mentioning that it won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2015. So, there’s that?
But all that said, I didn't find it enjoyable to read.
It took a while to figure out why. Even while reading it I'm thinking to myself "This is so good", but at the same time wondering why I'm bored and looking forward to the next book.
Finally I think I nailed it. Nothing really happens. It's all set in amongst the background of a lot happening, but other than hearing about it, there's not much that really goes on with the characters that so much time has been spent making us love.
This feels like all the parts of a fantastic book that happen BETWEEN the major plot points.
I spent the majority of this book waiting for something to happen, and when it doesn't it feels like there no payoff for the time invested in these characters.
Maybe this is what literary fiction is about. I can see why people may like it. It's life through the eyes of others.
But books are a form of entertainment. This wasn't entertaining to me, and I couldn't wait to start a new book.
Marie Laure is an 11 yrs old blind girl, who is taken from Paris to St Malo, by her father for safety. Werner is an 11 yrs old German boy, who is a genius with technology i e old fashioned radios of the era. He attends an elite school for the German Ideal. Werner progresses to be an important part of discovering illegal radios used by the Resistance in the St Malo area.
Some very interesting facts are given and there’s obviously a lot going on; mostly about the sadness, hardship and devastating consequences of war. Paths cross along the way. Various plot threads interact. There are some heroic pleasing characters and equally some distasteful cruel individuals.
Would recommend but advise sticking with the unusual style.