All the Light We Cannot See is a book about the tragedies of war written by Anthony Doerr. The tone of the book is melancholic yet hopeful. It is centered around two protagonists, a six-year old French girl, Marie Laurie, and an eight-year old German boy, Werner Pfennig.
It is a deeply moving story where the author wonderfully captures the difficult circumstances of war and its effects on the people involved. This book is not about what happened during World War II, nor is it about Hitler or the Jews. This book is about how war affects the lives of ordinary people by uprooting them from their homes. It is about people who do not wish to participate in the war and have no choice but to bare the consequences of it. At the same time, it highlights the strength of humanity where we can live through unimaginable situations. In the end, we can always find a reason to live and survive.
All the Light We Cannot See is a fictional war novel about many things. It is about the strength of a blind girl that survives through war. A confused yet an intelligent orphan boy who loves to learn but is captured in a terrible period of war. A father, trying to do his best for his daughter. A sister who is worried that her brother will get influenced by Nazi ideologies. A soldier from World War I who loses his brother and is haunted by the ghosts of war. A friend who loses his life because he is considered too weak to serve the country. This book highlights how individual choices and freedom do not belong to you, but to your country. Only by serving the country, can you survive. Moments of weakness, betrayal, shock, horror, and hope are what makes this book so special and real.
“Wherever her great-uncle is, could he have survived this?
“Walk the path of logic. Every outcome has its cause, and every predicament has its solution. Every key its lock. You can go back to Paris or you can stay here or you can go on.”
*Spoiler Alert* Below is a detailed summary of the book which reveals some of the plot points.
Marie Laurie is a blind girl who loses her eyesight due to cataract at a very young age. She lives in Paris with her father, who loves her dearly and works at the Museum of National History. Her father builds a miniature version of the neighborhood for his daughter so she can navigate through the area independently when the need arises. Marie regularly accompanies her father to the museum and this is where she learns about a valuable blue diamond, the Sea of Flames, and its legendary curse. When the German army invades France, Marie Laurie and her father flee from Paris and arrive at Saint-Malo to live with her great uncle Etienne.
Meanwhile, Werner Pfennig lives in an orphanage with his sister Jutta in a town called Zollverein in Germany. He is a brilliant kid with an exceptional skill in fixing radios. His talents and expertise with electronics capture attention. Soon, Werner is presented with an opportunity to study in a specialized training school in Berlin. Werner with a hope for a better future and thirst for knowledge decides to attend the school by leaving behind his sister. Only upon his arrival, he realizes that the fears of his sister were right all along – the boarding school is a place that teaches Nazi values. All the while at the boarding school, Werner does everything that he is expected to do but deep inside he is guilty and knows that he has made a wrong decision.
While the city is being bombed and attacked, Marie Laurie holds onto hope and ends up saving Werner’s life with her radio broadcasts. In turn, Werner saves Marie who is trapped in her house with a German officer. This story is about their journey, experiences and how their lives intersect during war.
“He says, “You are very brave.” She lowers the bucket. “What is your name?” He tells her. She says, “When I lost my sight, Werner, people said I was brave. When my father left, people said I was brave. But it is not bravery; I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don’t you do the same?” He says, “Not in years. But today. Today maybe I did.”