Why You Must Read All the Light We Cannot See

I have recently finished my favorite book of 2015.  Seriously, it’s fabulous.  If you like historical fiction, or even if you don’t, please pick up All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.


All the Light follows two children on opposite sides of WWII.  Marie-Laure LeBlanc lost her mother to childbirth and her sight to congenital cataracts.  She lives in Paris with her father, the locksmith of the National Museum of Natural History.  Monsier LeBlanc forces Marie Laure to navigate her world independently, challenging her to develop her other senses.  His loving, but demanding, expectations will one day save her life.

Werner is an orphan in Germany.  His mind bursts with questions and ideas, and he has a particular affinity for building and fixing radios.  Werner will do anything to escape the fate of his father – death in the mines of Zollverein, the coal mining complex outside Essen, Germany, where he lives. When Werner’s talent gains the attention of local Nazi leaders, he seizes the opportunity to leave Zollverein to train at a special school.  Unfortunately, Werner trades one nightmare fate for another.

Eventually, a radio brings Marie-Laure and Werner together, just in time for Werner to save Marie-Laure’s life.

All you life you wait, and then it finally comes, and are you ready?

What I liked

  • Anthony Doerr tells this story with beautiful writing, including fresh, vivid descriptions, such as:

Hours wear out and fall away…  [Marie-Laure] stands alone in Madame Manec’s room and smells peppermint, candle wax, six decades of loyalty.  Housemaid, nurse, mother, confederate, counselor, chef – what ten thousand things was Madame Manec to … them all?

  • Doerr uses alternating points of view, as well as changing time frames and settings, to increase tension and keep the story moving.  He opens with the bombing of Saint Malo to pull us in to a life threatening situation, then he backtracks and explains how the characters found themselves in such dire circumstances.
  • The characters are fully developed, interesting and compelling.  By having at least one character from each side of the conflict, Doerr explores the human side of war.  I’ve often wondered how so many Germans could buy into Hitler’s philosophy, could consort with him in the murder of millions of people.  All the Light shows how good fear is at controlling behavior.
  • Although it’s a novel about WWII, and therefore sad and at times disturbing, it also has themes of love and bravery and hope.  It made me cry, but I adore it.

What I didn’t like

  • Nothing.  This book won the Pulitzer Prize.  I can see why.
  • Some of my fellow book clubbers didn’t like the switching of time and place; they found it distracting from the story.

Have you read All the Light We Cannot See?  What did you think of it?  Since my review overflows with praise, can anyone add some criticism?

Thanks for adding to the discussion!








Julia Tomiak
I believe in the power of words to improve our lives, and I help people find interesting words to read. Find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, and Google+. Member of SCBWI and Wordsmithstudio.org.


  1. I enjoyed the book, although I wouldn’t rate it as my favorite of the year. That being said, I don’t really have any criticisms, other than I find it exhausting to read WWII novels. I’m re-reading Night by Elie Weisel along with my son, and it just haunts me.

    I hope the next time you have a favorite book, I haven’t read it yet! I’m always looking for a new favorite.

  2. OMG, now I really, really, really have to read this. Hold placed at the library, but may end up buying this one if I can’t wait! Thanks so much for your enthusiastic review!

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