Book review: All the Light We Cannot See – I love France #108


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All the Light We Cannot See

All The Light We Cannot See
In full compliance with FTC Guidelines,
I received this audiobook for free in exchange
for a fair and honest review.
I was in no way compensated for this post
as a reviewer,
and the thoughts are my own.
All the Light We Cannot See
Anthony Doerr
Narrated by: Zach Appelman

Publication Date: May 6, 2014
at Simon & Schuster Audio


Duration: 16:02 hours
ISBN: 978-1442369375

historical fiction

Source: Received
from the publisher for review


Buy this book

This book counts for the following Reading Challenges:

      books-on-france-14 New author challenge

2014 historical fiction  2014-Audio-Book-Challenge-Button


new eiffel 5

Wow! If you are weary about all the hype going on around this book, don’t worry, this is really worth it! I was right away engrossed in All The Light We Cannot See.

It  goes back and forth between two characters, a structure I enjoy, just like in 1Q84. Marie Laure, the young girl, is French. Her blindness hardly puts any barrier to her scientific curiosity. Her remarkable father, who does all he can to develop her culture and skills, is in charge of the locks at the Museum of Natural History.

Then you have young Werner, a German orphan. He is also super smart. Radio is his thing. His skills are getting noticed by the Hitler regime. The novel follows the rising of the Third Reich and WWII, and how history will get these two persons connected, from radio waves to… I won’t tell you of course.

The book is so beautifully written, with amazing descriptions of places (Paris, and Saint-Malo in Western France, and Germany) and characters, great images, lots of neat details on shells, Marie Laure’s passion, on work in mines, and on radio waves and what you can do with that. I listened to it, and didn’t take time to write down some quotations. I think I’m going to end up reading the book now, to really savor every word as it should. I am not blind, just very near-sighted, but I think the author does also a fantastic job at describing how the blind perceive the world around them.

The whole thing is so atmospheric, you really feel right there in the world of each protagonist. Lots of historical novels have been written on WWII, but there’s still room for creativity, and Doerr outdid it. War is devastating at so many levels. Some people lived that period the best they could, and grew through them to become exceptional beings. You can meet two of them right here in this book.


Thoughts on the audio production:

I had not listened to Zach Appelman before. I really enjoyed his warm voice and his tone staying as neutral as possible, which I think was really essential here. Otherwise it could have been too emotionally overwhelming. He managed beautifully to  deliver the story while staying in the background. The book goes back and forth between places and times, but once you get into the reflex to really listen carefully to the time set given at the beginning of each section, you are fine. It could be confusing for readers not used to audiobooks, but if you are familiar with the format, it’s really a gem to savor.

VERDICT: How two young people in France and Germany can be connected through WWII. A unique perspective on war. The best historical novel I have listened to so far this year.




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.

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  [Goodreads]



Anthony DoerrAnthony Doerr is the author of five books,
The Shell Collector , About Grace , Memory Wall , Four Seasons in Rome and All the Light We Cannot See .
Doerr’s fiction has won four O. Henry Prizes
and has been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories, The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories,
and The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Fiction.
He has won the Barnes & Noble Discover Prize, the Rome Prize, the Story Prize,
the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Fiction Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship,
the Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Award, and the Ohioana Book Award three times.
Doerr lives in Boise, Idaho.


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21 thoughts on “Book review: All the Light We Cannot See – I love France #108

  1. This sounds good. It also seems like it is a little different from the typical novel set during World War II on the Continent. The radio connections sounds unique.


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  6. I guess this decides it. This is a book I have to read. I have only tried to listen to a couple audio books and I find I have a hard time getting into the story. Usually the people reading the book put me to sleep. Maybe this book is a good one to try an audio book again? Although with this one I will definitely get the print book first.


  7. I have held back from this one just because it’s had so much attention – it’s a perversity of. One they the. Ore exposures book has, the less I want to read it. But this sounds worth abandoning my self imposed barrier


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