Skip to content

All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

As seen:

By Anthony Doerr

avg rating

6 reviews

Find your local library.

Buy this book from to support The Reading Agency and local bookshops at no additional cost to you


A beautiful, stunningly ambitious 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 `Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.’ For Marie-Laure, blind since the age of six, the world is full of mazes.

The miniature of a Paris neighbourhood, made by her father to teach her the way home.

The microscopic layers within the invaluable diamond that her father guards in the Museum of Natural History.

The walled city by the sea, where father and daughter take refuge when the Nazis invade Paris. And a future which draws her ever closer to Werner, a German orphan, destined to labour in the mines until a broken radio fills his life with possibility and brings him to the notice of the Hitler Youth. In this magnificent, deeply moving novel, the stories ofMarie-Laure and Werner illuminate the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.


24 Oct 2019

Donna May

St Just Thursday Evening Reading Group 5th September 2019.

All the light we cannot see. Anthony Doerr.

The reading group all agreed that this was a very interesting book; also that it was sad, frightening, and realistic. Most people liked it, though some thought it was too long (others found that the short chapters mitigated this) and that the time switches were confusing.

Readers liked the way that the research which had obviously been done by the author was distilled into a form easily interpretable by the lay-person – particularly with reference to the way radio was developed and used. We also liked the way the characters were painted: Werner was easy to sympathise with, and Frederick came across as a complete contrast to him – a dreamer, while Werner was practical; someone of whom his family had expectations, when Werner had no family at all; and someone who didn't want to be part of what was going on, whereas Werner was recruited into successive parts of the military hierarchy.

Several people remarked on how successfully this book put over the way Hitler appealed to German nationalism. Werner was a young man without much of a stake in the social structure – an orphan, highly intelligent, but not hitherto a part of anything much larger, neither family nor other social grouping. Hitler, he thought, was giving him a place in the German Reich, a chance to use his skills as a radio operative for the good of the country, and that his effort would be rewarded. A lot of the book was about how this turned out not to be the case, but the initial appeal was unmistakable.

We did not agree about the role of the diamond in the narrative. Some thought it was an irrelevance and others saw it as a more significant part of the story, and maybe as a metaphor (for greed, or for concealment). We did agree that the reader is meant to infer that the diamond went back, via the sea cavern under St Malo, to the earth from which it originally came.

As well as discussing the book itself we talked about a number of issues that arose from our readings of it, including systems where political choice is not an option, comparisons with contemporary politics, and several personal stories about the Second World War.

09 Nov 2016

Dodworth Readers Group

A thought provoking book which led to much discussion in our group. Many struggled with the format finding the constant shifting of time and storyline disruptive. We all loved the central characters and the descriptive narrative engaging and beautifully written. Highly recommend to other reading groups.

16 Jul 2016

Beautifully written and touching and informative

14 May 2016

It's no wonder Anthony Doerr won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. This is a superb novel, the sort that takes writing to a higher level.

Our Little Book Club read this in April and everyone was positive about it, although some found the era less interesting than others. We all have quite different tastes in fiction and some of us loved it while others appreciated the writing, but did not feel as involved. I thought it wonderful - the feeling of time and place was hugely compelling and the only reason I have given it 4 rather than 5 stars is that I didn't love the ending. (I can't believe I have the temerity to give a Pulitzer winner only 4!).

Although the main characters are Marie-Laure and Werner, everyone in our book club felt that the more secondary character Frederick was the true hero of the book. We talked about him more than any of the others and oddly enough, everyone said his story was the one they were most moved by.

It was a great choice for a book club as there were so many issues and characters to discuss. Very much recommended.

27 Jan 2016

It took me a while to be hooked but once I was the book just flowed. The story unfolded beautifully and you felt that you got plenty of time to get to know the characters. Such difficult times but interesting to have a snapshot from both sides.

09 Nov 2015

This is a beautifully written story - rarely do I stop in a book and think about the writing but some of the description has blown me away. It is a wonderful read!

From the noticeboard

View our other programmes