Book Review: All the Light We Cannot See

By Meghan Malone

Brief Summary:

All the Light We Cannot See, a historical fiction novel by Anthony Doerr, is about multiple individuals’ stories coming together in the wake of World War II in Europe. The main characters are Marie-Laure LeBlanc and Werner Pfennig. Marie-Laure is a blind French girl who was forced to flee to Saint-Malo, France when the Nazis occupied Paris. Werner is a German orphan who has a knack for building and fixing radios, a talent that the German military recruits him for.

The novel is overall a touching story of the internal struggles that people face, which the outside world is oblivious to. It shows human kindness and determination to do what is right, even when one is surrounded by so much wrong.

Important Character Outlines:

Marie-Laure LeBlanc: young, blind French girl who lives in Paris with her father.

Daniel LeBlanc: Marie-Laure’s affectionate father, who helps her overcome her disability. He is a locksmith at the Museum of Natural History in Paris and was entrusted with a priceless diamond, the Sea of Flames, when the Nazis occupy Paris.


Werner Pfennig: young, intelligent German orphan who has a talent for working with radios, which results in Nazi forces recruiting him.


Jutta Pfennig: Werner’s younger sister, who shares his passion with radios. Werner constantly thinks of what Jutta would think of his actions when he goes away, and tries to do what might please her moral standards.


Favorite Quotes:

“Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.”

“Don’t you want to be alive before you die?”

“So how, children, does the brain, which lives without a spark of light, build for us a world full of light?”

“Some people are weak in some ways, sir. Others in other ways.”


Potential Negative Aspects:

The novel is a bit lengthy–a whopping 545 pages–so if you’re looking for a quick read I wouldn’t go for this one. Doerr writes in a very detailed and specific way, so if you’re not a fan of a lot of detail then I wouldn’t read this. Lastly, although this book is lighthearted and happy at times, some parts are extremely sad (tear-jerker!) and other parts are gruesome, especially when it comes to the training the Nazis underwent.


Overall Grade: A+

All the Light We Cannot See makes readers feel a connection to the characters in the novel. It exposed many different emotions, from joy, to humor, to sadness, and everything in between. The novel is magnificently written with a strong voice and so much emotion.


I recommend this book to anyone that enjoys reading historical fiction, who likes figurative language, most notably imagery and deep symbolism, and who likes characters that show many internal conflicts. This novel is truly a work of art, as Doerr clearly did extensive research into every aspect of the book, from the setting to chronology.