Cover image for All the Light We Cannot See
Title:
All the Light We Cannot See

A Novel
Author:
Doerr, Anthony
Subject:
Fiction
Historical Fiction
Description:
WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the beautiful, stunningly ambitious instant New York Times bestseller 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 near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel. In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge. Doerr’s “stunning sense of physical detail and gorgeous metaphors” (San Francisco Chronicle) are dazzling. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, he illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another. Ten years in the writing, a National Book Award finalist, All the Light We Cannot See is a magnificent, deeply moving novel from a writer “whose sentences never fail to thrill” (Los Angeles Times).
Publisher:
Scribner
Date:
2014/05/06
Digital Format:
Adobe EPUB

HTML

Kindle
Language:
English

Summary

Summary

WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE
From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the beautiful, stunningly ambitious instant New York Times bestseller 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 near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure's reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum's most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure's converge.

Doerr's "stunning sense of physical detail and gorgeous metaphors" ( San Francisco Chronicle ) are dazzling. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, he illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another. Ten years in the writing, a National Book Award finalist, All the Light We Cannot See is a magnificent, deeply moving novel from a writer "whose sentences never fail to thrill" ( Los Angeles Times ).


Author Notes

Anthony Doerr was born on October 27, 1973 in Cleveland, Ohio. He is the author of The Shell Collector, About Grace, Four Seasons in Rome, Memory Wall, and All the Light We Cannot See. His fiction has won four O. Henry Prizes and has been anthologized in several anthologies. He has won the Barnes and Noble Discover Prize, the Rome Prize, the New York Public Library's Young Lions Award, the National Magazine Award for Fiction, three Pushcart Prizes, two Pacific Northwest Book Award, three Ohioana Book Awards, the 2010 Story Prize, which is considered the most prestigious prize in the U.S. for a collection of short stories, and the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award, which is the largest prize in the world for a single short story. His novel, All the Light We Cannot See, won the Adult Fiction Award for the Indies Choice Book Awards in 2015, the International Book of the Year at the ABIA Awards and the Pulitzer Prizes for Fiction in 2015. Anthony Doerr also won the 2015 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction for this same title.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 5

Library Journal Review

Starred Review. Zach Appelman narrates Doerr's tender World War II tale of two young people: Marie-Laure, blind since the age of six, and Werner, who was orphaned by a tragic mine accident. Marie-Laure's father is the locksmith for a natural history museum, and when Paris falls, he and his daughter escape to the home of her great uncle Etienne in Saint Malo, carrying what may be a priceless diamond. Her father is imprisoned and soon Etienne and Marie-Laure become resistance fighters, sending clandestine radio transmissions. In Germany, Werner escapes the mines because of his mathematical ability and interest in radios and is sent to a training camp for Hitler youth. Werner is conflicted he is receiving the education he wanted so desperately, but when confronted daily with injustice and brutality, he finally asks to leave. Instead, he is sent to the front. Using technology he helped develop, Werner is charged with finding and eliminating partisans such as Etienne and Marie-Laure. The listener knows that slowly, inextricably, Werner's and Marie-Laure's lives will intersect. But Doerr does not leave listeners in despair. Like light through the clouds, love, hope, and kindness peek through time and again. VERDICT Listeners must attend closely to this story of innocents caught up in the darkness of World War II. But if they do, they are rewarded with an excellent narration of a beautifully written story. ["The novel presents two characters so interesting and sympathetic that readers will keep turning the pages hoping for an impossibly happy ending," read the starred review of the Scribner hc, LJ 2/1/14.] Judy Murray, Monroe Cty. Lib. Syst., Temperance, MI (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Publisher's Weekly Review

Broadway actor Appelman delivers a moving performance in the audio edition of Doerr's beautiful WWII novel. The story shifts back and forth in time, and alternates between the perspectives of two protagonists, Marie-Laure-a blind French girl whose locksmith father builds models of the city to help her adapt to her surroundings-and Werner Pfennig, a German orphan who is separated from his sister, Jutta, when he's called to work for the Nazis as an engineer. The stories are both involving in their own right, as we track how the peaceful lives of a father/daughter and brother/sister are slowly disrupted by the rise of the Nazis. Reader Appelman helps convey the emotional tension of each scene with dialogue that is devastatingly moving, and his portrayal of Marie-Laure's uncle, Etienne, is particularly effective. All and all, Appelman turns in a dramatic and well-paced performance of Doerr's richly conveyed and heartbreaking period piece. A Scribner hardcover. (May) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Booklist Review

*Starred Review* A novel to live in, learn from, and feel bereft over when the last page is turned, Doerr's magnificently drawn story seems at once spacious and tightly composed. It rests, historically, during the occupation of France during WWII, but brief chapters told in alternating voices give the overall and long ­narrative a swift movement through time and events. We have two main characters, each one on opposite sides in the conflagration that is destroying Europe. Marie-Louise is a sightless girl who lived with her father in Paris before the occupation; he was a master locksmith for the Museum of Natural History. When German forces necessitate abandonment of the city, Marie-Louise's father, taking with him the museum's greatest treasure, removes himself and his daughter and eventually arrives at his uncle's house in the coastal city of Saint-Malo. Young German soldier Werner is sent to Saint-Malo to track Resistance activity there, and eventually, and inevitably, Marie-Louise's and Werner's paths cross. It is through their individual and intertwined tales that Doerr masterfully and knowledgeably re-creates the deprived civilian conditions of war-torn France and the strictly controlled lives of the military occupiers.High-Demand Backstory: A multipronged marketing campaign will make the author's many fans aware of his newest book, and extensive review coverage is bound to enlist many new fans.--Hooper, Brad Copyright 2014 Booklist


New York Review of Books Review

BEER MONEY: A Memoir of Privilege and Loss, by Frances Stroh. (Harper Perennial, $16.99.) As a fifth-generation heir to the Stroh Brewing Company, once the third-largest brewery in the country, the author glimpsed some of her family's former splendor growing up in Grosse Pointe, Mich. She tells a story of squandered wealth and her family's decline while attempting to link the Strohs' fortunes to those of Detroit. STILL HERE, by Lara Vapnyar. (Hogarth, $16.) Four friends from Russia attempt to forge new paths in New York, but end up transposing old dynamics, romances and jealousies to their adopted city. Vica pushes her husband to pitch an app with an ill-omened name - the Virtual Grave - to their wealthier friends, inspiring questions about immortality that follow the characters throughout the novel. THE ONLY GAME IN TOWN: Central Banks, Instability, and Avoiding the Next Collapse, by Mohamed A. El-Erian. (Random House, $18.) In this edition, updated to reflect such geopolitical shifts as the election of President Trump and Britain's vote to leave the European Union, the author outlines the challenges to the global economy and prescribes solutions to avoid falling back into stagnation - or having sluggish growth become the new standard. THE SPORT OF KINGS, by C. E. Morgan. (Picador, $18.) The descendants of three Kentucky families - one wealthy and white, one AfricanAmerican, and one equine - converge in this story, where questions of lineage, breeding and the past commingle on the Forge family plantation. Henrietta, a fiercely independent Forge heir, defies her father by hiring a black jockey, and soon falls in love with him. Our reviewer, Jaimy Gordon, praised the "fire, virtuosity and spiritual imagination with which Morgan conjures" her subjects. ENTER HELEN: The Invention of Helen Gurley Brown and the Rise of the Modern Single Woman, by Brooke Hauser. (Harper, $16.99.) Brown, the longtime editor of Cosmopolitan and the author of the best-selling "Sex and the Single Girl," helped stoke a revolution. Hauser's biography examines how Brown used her own insecurities to speak to a range of women, and shows how many of her life's conflicts still resonate today. ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE, by Anthony Doerr. (Scribner, $17.) The lives of a blind Resistance fighter in France and a brilliant orphan recruited by the Nazis intersect in this imaginative novel, which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2015. The narrative confronts the role of morality and obligation during wartime, while performing an exemplary feat of storytelling.


Guardian Review

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: one of those books in which the talent of the storyteller surmounts stylistic inadequacies and ultimately defies one's better judgment. Good things first: the story, which is set in Germany and France before and during the German occupation of France. Doerr's energetic imagination seems steeped in the favourite books of childhood: Marie-Laure is a little blind French girl, motherless, with the freckles of Pollyanna and Anne of Green Gables. Werner Pfennig and his sister Jutta are orphans in the German mining town of Zollverein, near Essen. He is a boy of seven with white hair, like snow, whose presence is "like being in the room with a feather". Werner may be tiny, but he is no Peter Pan. He has a gift for science, and the intricacies of radios in particular. He can fix anything. Marie-Laure is six years old when the novel begins in Paris in 1934, where she lives with her beloved Papa, a locksmith and keeper of the keys at the Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle. There, hidden in its vaults for the past 200 years, is an accursed gem, a greyish-blue sea diamond with a red hue at its centre: the Sea of Flame. Marie-Laure's father is also the creator of ingenious puzzles and delightful miniatures - of the streets and houses of Paris, for instance. The miniatures teach Marie-Laure, using her fingers as eyes, how to navigate the city. Ultimately she survives the destruction and desolation of the Occupation through the books she can read in braille. Though this is a novel Dickens would read with some interest, it is Jules Verne and Darwin who are the key to Marie-Laure's future. She devours Around the World in Eighty Days, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, and Darwin's The Voyage of the Beagle Werner's talent brings him to the attention of the Nazis, and he is sent to a national school that trains, ferociously, an elite cadre for the Third Reich. The chapters on Werner's schooling, and the fate of his brutalised friend Frederick, are the best in the book. Doerr's prose needs no embellishment as this section gently probes the question of how ordinary German people could have done what they did. Marie-Laure and her father escape Paris in 1940, and take refuge in Saint-Malo, on the coast of Brittany. Her father has been entrusted with the Sea of Flame. Werner's genius is put to work tracking radio transmissions across Russia and Central Europe, until he is sent to Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure's great-uncle Etienne uses his radio transmitter on behalf of the Resistance. The pursuit of the Sea of Flame continues as the US Air Force blasts the walled city to smithereens two months after the D-Day landings. Doerr constructs an unusual edifice, made up of fable and the prodigious inventions of the mechanical, technical and natural world. Snails, molluscs, the creatures of earth and sky, the properties of gemstones and coal, all the technological marvels embraced by the Nazis are converted into sources of wonder, as the intricacies of radio waves, and the data they hurtle through the air, offer an alternative way to harness both science and the goodness in human nature. Unfortunately, Doerr's prose style is high-pitched, operatic, relentless. Short sharp sentences, echoing the static of the radios, make the first hundred pages very tiresome to read, as does the American idiom. Somehow it is strange to listen to the thoughts of Marie-Laure and Werner and the many other characters, both German and French, give forth such Yankee utterances as "Werner . . . you shouldn't think big." Sidewalks, apartment houses, the use of "sure" instead of "yes' - all these cut across the historical background that Doerr has so meticulously researched. No noun sits upon the page without the decoration of at least one adjective, and sometimes, alas, with two or three. And these adjectives far too often are of the glimmering, glowing, pellucid variety. Eyes are wounded, nights are luminous and starlit, seagulls are alabaster. "Fields enwombed with hedges" is almost the last straw. And so the novel is far too long. Nevertheless, often Doerr rises again as, entranced with the story he is telling, he lets the overwriting slip away. And his attention to detail is magnificent. Always you want to know what happens next to Marie-Laure, to her father, her great-uncle Etienne, to Werner and Jutta, and to his considerable parade of other characters. Much can be forgiven a Pied Piper like Doerr, who can pour his obsessive energies into a tale such as this. Carmen Callil's books include Bad Faith: A Story of Family and Fatherland (Vintage). To order All the Light We Cannot See for pounds 13.59 with free UK p&p call Guardian book service on 0330 333 6846 or go to guardianbookshop.co.uk. - Carmen Callil [Marie-Laure]'s father is also the creator of ingenious puzzles and delightful miniatures - of the streets and houses of Paris, for instance. The miniatures teach Marie-Laure, using her fingers as eyes, how to navigate the city. Ultimately she survives the destruction and desolation of the Occupation through the books she can read in braille. Though this is a novel Dickens would read with some interest, it is Jules Verne and Darwin who are the key to Marie-Laure's future. She devours Around the World in Eighty Days, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, and Darwin's The Voyage of the Beagle Unfortunately, [Doerr]'s prose style is high-pitched, operatic, relentless. Short sharp sentences, echoing the static of the radios, make the first hundred pages very tiresome to read, as does the American idiom. Somehow it is strange to listen to the thoughts of Marie-Laure and [Werner] and the many other characters, both German and French, give forth such Yankee utterances as "Werner . . . you shouldn't think big." Sidewalks, apartment houses, the use of "sure" instead of "yes' - all these cut across the historical background that Doerr has so meticulously researched. No noun sits upon the page without the decoration of at least one adjective, and sometimes, alas, with two or three. And these adjectives far too often are of the glimmering, glowing, pellucid variety. Eyes are wounded, nights are luminous and starlit, seagulls are alabaster. "Fields enwombed with hedges" is almost the last straw. And so the novel is far too long. - Carmen Callil.


Excerpts

Excerpts

All the Light We Cannot See Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a tall and freckled six-year-old in Paris with rapidly deteriorating eyesight when her father sends her on a children's tour of the museum where he works. The guide is a hunchbacked old warder hardly taller than a child himself. He raps the tip of his cane against the floor for attention, then leads his dozen charges across the gardens to the galleries. The children watch engineers use pulleys to lift a fossilized dinosaur femur. They see a stuffed giraffe in a closet, patches of hide wearing off its back. They peer into taxidermists' drawers full of feathers and talons and glass eyeballs; they flip through two-hundred-year-old herbarium sheets bedecked with orchids and daisies and herbs. Eventually they climb sixteen steps into the Gallery of Mineralogy. The guide shows them agate from Brazil and violet amethysts and a meteorite on a pedestal that he claims is as ancient as the solar system itself. Then he leads them single file down two twisting staircases and along several corridors and stops outside an iron door with a single keyhole. "End of tour," he says. A girl says, "But what's through there?" "Behind this door is another locked door, slightly smaller." "And what's behind that?" "A third locked door, smaller yet." "What's behind that?" "A fourth door, and a fifth, on and on until you reach a thirteenth, a little locked door no bigger than a shoe." The children lean forward. "And then?" "Behind the thirteenth door"--the guide flourishes one of his impossibly wrinkled hands--"is the Sea of Flames." Puzzlement. Fidgeting. "Come now. You've never heard of the Sea of Flames?" The children shake their heads. Marie-Laure squints up at the naked bulbs strung in three-yard intervals along the ceiling; each sets a rainbow-colored halo rotating in her vision. The guide hangs his cane on his wrist and rubs his hands together. "It's a long story. Do you want to hear a long story?" They nod. He clears his throat. "Centuries ago, in the place we now call Borneo, a prince plucked a blue stone from a dry riverbed because he thought it was pretty. But on the way back to his palace, the prince was attacked by men on horseback and stabbed in the heart." "Stabbed in the heart?" "Is this true?" A boy says, "Hush." "The thieves stole his rings, his horse, everything. But because the little blue stone was clenched in his fist, they did not discover it. And the dying prince managed to crawl home. Then he fell unconscious for ten days. On the tenth day, to the amazement of his nurses, he sat up, opened his hand, and there was the stone. "The sultan's doctors said it was a miracle, that the prince never should have survived such a violent wound. The nurses said the stone must have healing powers. The sultan's jewelers said something else: they said the stone was the largest raw diamond anyone had ever seen. Their most gifted stonecutter spent eighty days faceting it, and when he was done, it was a brilliant blue, the blue of tropical seas, but it had a touch of red at its center, like flames inside a drop of water. The sultan had the diamond fitted into a crown for the prince, and it was said that when the young prince sat on his throne and the sun hit him just so, he became so dazzling that visitors could not distinguish his figure from light itself." "Are you sure this is true?" asks a girl. "Hush," says the boy. "The stone came to be known as the Sea of Flames. Some believed the prince was a deity, that as long as he kept the stone, he could not be killed. But something strange began to happen: the longer the prince wore his crown, the worse his luck became. In a month, he lost a brother to drowning and a second brother to snakebite. Within six months, his father died of disease. To make matters even worse, the sultan's scouts announced that a great army was gathering in the east. "The prince called together his father's advisers. All said he should prepare for war, all but one, a priest, who said he'd had a dream. In the dream the Goddess of the Earth told him she'd made the Sea of Flames as a gift for her lover, the God of the Sea, and was sending the jewel to him through the river. But when the river dried up, and the prince plucked it out, the goddess became enraged. She cursed the stone and whoever kept it." Every child leans forward, Marie-Laure along with them. "The curse was this: the keeper of the stone would live forever, but so long as he kept it, misfortunes would fall on all those he loved one after another in unending rain." "Live forever?" "But if the keeper threw the diamond into the sea, thereby delivering it to its rightful recipient, the goddess would lift the curse. So the prince, now sultan, thought for three days and three nights and finally decided to keep the stone. It had saved his life; he believed it made him indestructible. He had the tongue cut out of the priest's mouth." "Ouch," says the youngest boy. "Big mistake," says the tallest girl. "The invaders came," says the warder, "and destroyed the palace, and killed everyone they found, and the prince was never seen again, and for two hundred years no one heard any more about the Sea of Flames. Some said the stone was recut into many smaller stones; others said the prince still carried the stone, that he was in Japan or Persia, that he was a humble farmer, that he never seemed to grow old. "And so the stone fell out of history. Until one day, when a French diamond trader, during a trip to the Golconda Mines in India, was shown a massive pear-cut diamond. One hundred and thirty-three carats. Near-perfect clarity. As big as a pigeon's egg, he wrote, and as blue as the sea, but with a flare of red at its core. He made a casting of the stone and sent it to a gem-crazy duke in Lorraine, warning him of the rumors of a curse. But the duke wanted the diamond very badly. So the trader brought it to Europe, and the duke fitted it into the end of a walking stick and carried it everywhere." "Uh-oh." "Within a month, the duchess contracted a throat disease. Two of their favorite servants fell off the roof and broke their necks. Then the duke's only son died in a riding accident. Though everyone said the duke himself had never looked better, he became afraid to go out, afraid to accept visitors. Eventually he was so convinced that his stone was the accursed Sea of Flames that he asked the king to shut it up in his museum on the conditions that it be locked deep inside a specially built vault and the vault not be opened for two hundred years." "And?" "And one hundred and ninety-six years have passed." All the children remain quiet a moment. Several do math on their fingers. Then they raise their hands as one. "Can we see it?" "No." "Not even open the first door?" "No." "Have you seen it?" "I have not." "So how do you know it's really there?" "You have to believe the story." "How much is it worth, Monsieur? Could it buy the Eiffel Tower?" "A diamond that large and rare could in all likelihood buy five Eiffel Towers." Gasps. "Are all those doors to keep thieves from getting in?" "Maybe," the guide says, and winks, "they're there to keep the curse from getting out." The children fall quiet. Two or three take a step back. Marie-Laure takes off her eyeglasses, and the world goes shapeless. "Why not," she asks, "just take the diamond and throw it into the sea?" The warder looks at her. The other children look at her. "When is the last time," one of the older boys says, "you saw someone throw five Eiffel Towers into the sea?" There is laughter. Marie-Laure frowns. It is just an iron door with a brass keyhole. The tour ends and the children disperse and Marie-Laure is reinstalled in the Grand Gallery with her father. He straightens her glasses on her nose and plucks a leaf from her hair. "Did you have fun, ma chérie?" A little brown house sparrow swoops out of the rafters and lands on the tiles in front of her. Marie-Laure holds out an open palm. The sparrow tilts his head, considering. Then it flaps away. One month later she is blind. Excerpted from All the Light We Cannot See: A Novel by Anthony Doerr All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.