All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr


I listened to this book because it made onto the NYT top 10 books of the year, as well as other "best of 2014" lists. It is the story of two young people caught in the horror of World War II whose lives intersect near the end of the war. 

Marie-Laure, daughter of the locksmith of the natural history museum in Paris, becomes blind as a girl. Her father makes a wooden model of the neighborhood where they live, so she can find her way around. Their quiet settled life comes to an end when the war comes to Paris and they flee to St. Malo on the coast where her father's uncle lives. 

The other young person is Werner, an orphan who lives with his sister in a home where the children have little but are well cared for. Werner is expected to work in the coal mine when he is old enough, but he is clever and hard working enough to become known for his ability to fix radios. He makes it into a military school, a bad enough place, though for a time he is nurtured by the electronics instructor. He must go into the army though he is terribly young and his talents with radios are used successfully and eventually he is in St. Malo in 1944.

The complicated but impeccable storytelling includes a priceless diamond, a complicated network of resistance fighters involving a slip of paper with a series of numbers baked into loaves of bread, a murderous giant of a man helping his friend betray the Germans, a man dying of cancer relentlessly tracking down the diamond, and more.

The brief time Marie-Laure and Werner have together is a short but very touching interlude. 

Anthony Doerr, All the Light We Cannot See, Scribner, 2014, 531 pages (I listened to the audiobook version). Available at the UVa and public libraries and through Amazon.

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