The heroine is Marie-Laure LeBlanc, whose loving father, a talented locksmith, goes to extraordinary lengths to help her compensate for the loss of her eyesight...Mr. Doerr’s acutely sensory style captures the extreme perceptiveness Marie-Laure has developed by the time World War II begins. Much of the story unfolds during the war, although it jumps back and forth. The book opens in August 1944, two months after D-Day, with the sound of things falling from the sky and rattling against windows. Marie-Laure knows these are leaflets. She can smell the fresh ink … Werner’s experience at the school is only one of the many trials through which Mr. Doerr puts his characters in this surprisingly fresh and enveloping book...Mr. Doerr’s nuanced approach concentrates on the choices his characters make and on the souls that have been lost, both living and dead.
Enthrallingly told, beautifully written and so emotionally plangent that some passages bring tears, it is completely unsentimental … Doerr achieves…[the] wonders of this book by creating a structure as intricate as any model made by Marie-Laure’s father. Cutting back and forth in time, he creates nearly unbearable suspense. Every piece of back story reveals information that charges the emerging narrative with significance, until at last the puzzle-box of the plot slides open to reveal the treasure hidden inside. A lesser novelist would be content with this achievement, but Doerr twists the puzzle-box once more and brings his novel into the present.
I must blame Anthony Doerr for lost sleep, because once I started reading his new novel, All the Light We Cannot See, there was no putting it down … Marie-Laure is an exquisitely realized creation. Her blindness is convincingly represented, and the steady love of her locksmith father (who builds scale models of the neighborhoods she must learn to negotiate with her cane) makes her story both more beautiful and more believable … While Marie-Laure’s participation in the Resistance develops naturally out of who she is, Werner’s life lacks context, at least during the important period when he has departed Schulpforta for the Eastern Front … The fact is, All the Light We Cannot See falls shortest when it tries to deal with Nazism. It falls back on flimsy types...Most preposterous of all is a certain Sgt. Maj. Reinhold von Rumpel, whose wickedness and physical loathsomeness are offset by nothing that could make him into a rounded character. His unbelievability exemplifies a mistake writers often make when describing monsters.
[Doerr] builds a beautiful, expansive tale, woven with thoughtful reflections on the meaning of life, the universe and everything … Doerr never lets Werner off the hook, and Werner's arc — his increasing tolerance for ugliness and violence, ‘his ten thousand small betrayals,’ his struggle to find volition and redemption in a life that offers few apparent choices — is the most compelling part of the book. The other characters are easier to classify as good and evil. Marie-Laure's struggle for survival is captivating, but her journey is more external than Werner's — we are never forced to doubt the purity of her heart … The prose is lovely, with the sort of wondrous, magical, humor-free tone that could be cheesy in the wrong hands.
A novel is not a historical document, but it does become one, regardless of its author’s preference. Our entertainments reflect their times: how we choose to remember historical events, and how we prefer to remember them. Especially when the worst of times, World War II, becomes material for the lightest of entertainments … Doerr's novel is an unsavory mixture of ‘relativizing’ and ‘aestheticizing’ … Doerr's writing is pompous, pretentious, and imprecise. Every noun is escorted by an adjective of reliable but uninspiring quality. Eyes are ‘wounded.’ Brown hair is ‘mousy’ … When World War II is reduced to a conflict between technological determinism and innocent children, the difference between aggressors and defenders is erased. We see no evil, only ‘normalized’ reflections in the Sea of Flames.
There's nothing like this variety of plot for creating suspense and expectation on the part of a reader...Except that right from the start, the timeline of the plot lies broken into annoying fragments, for no good narrative reason that I can discern … Doerr is an exquisite stylist; his talents are on full display in brilliant passages … It's a marvelous thing, to read a book studded with epiphanic sequences like this, sentences ringing beautifully on every page. But there's just something about the ragged time-line that makes Doerr's approach and execution all too jarring.
The neat symmetry of Marie-Laure and Werner’s childhoods — one spent in darkness, the other exploring sound — would seem too obvious a mirror in another writer’s hands. Doerr, however, has packed each of his scenes with such refractory material that All the Light We Cannot See reflects a dazzling array of themes … As far as World War II novels go, All the Light You Can See follows some of the usual pathways — love and greed are the magnetizing poles of its compass — but its language feels startlingly fresh. Doerr has retooled his sentences into short bursts of sensory information. He has also turned his skill at compression and miniaturization to creating metaphorical pivot points.
For such a disciplined, measured writer, Doerr's storytelling mode here is unexpectedly vigorous. Darting back and forth between the two protagonists in the six years leading up to 1944, the book moves with the pace of a thriller. Each two- to four-page chapter offers a sharply etched glimpse into character and circumstance. As a result, the radiant beauty of the prose - and it is gorgeous - never makes us pause too long. The story's headlong action propels us ever onward … Doerr's novel spotlights history in vivid primary colors. He makes us not only see but also feel the desolation and barbarism of war … On this stage, at once vast and intimate, Doerr works his magic on the great themes of destiny versus choice, entrapment versus liberation, atrocity versus honor.
This uncanny fusing of science and spirit is pure Doerr...in All the Light We Cannot See, published 10 years after his first novel, Doerr takes his familiar gifts to a higher plane and a wider field … By focusing on radio technology and the looting of precious stones, he enters the war through two quirky channels. And his hero, Werner Pfennig, is an inspired creation — a smart, sweet, undersized orphan faced with an impossible choice: Either submit to a nasty short life in the coal mines that killed his father or use his daring and brains to win a place at Schulpforta, the Nazi boarding school for ‘the best boys in Germany’ … I was despondent when I turned the last page. All the Light We Cannot See is a beautiful, daring, heartbreaking, oddly joyous novel.
Orphans, plucky children with a disability, cursed gemstones, World War II. Anthony Doerr combines all of the above in his new novel, All the Light We Cannot See – and pulls it off with stylistic aplomb … The curse surrounding the diamond is the least interesting part of the novel: During World War II, there were enough real sources of death and tragedy that a mythological one was hardly needed. And Marie-Laure, Werner, and their companions are so compelling, readers don’t need a shiny trinket to keep turning pages … [Doerr] deftly guides All the Light We Cannot See toward the day Werner’s and Marie-Laure’s lives intersect during the bombing of Saint-Malo in what may be his best work to date.
This tough-to-put-down book by Anthony Doerr proves its worth page after lyrical page as young Marie Laure, in the company of her father and a mysterious gem, flees Paris to take up residence in her troubled uncle's seaside home, and young Werner is indoctrinated by the Nazis … Each and every person in this finely spun assemblage is distinct and true. All, even the most heroic and likable, are flawed in some way, as real people are (and people in novels often are not). Most are utterly unforgettable, long after the last page has been turned.
Through short chapters, clipped sentences, and the rat-tat-tat of action verbs, [Doerr] conjures up a vibrating, crackling world. We can hear the static on the radio and feel the saltwater breeze on our skin … Doerr’s optimistic worldview, which colors the novel: Evil and darkness may hover over everything, especially in times of war, but goodness and light still manage to peek through … Anthony Doerr’s fictional landscape is an intricately, beautifully crafted one indeed, much like the miniature models of the city Marie-Laure’s father builds to help her navigate her way through the streets. He doesn’t leave out a single chimney or shutter.
By chronicling the lives of a pair of youngsters in Europe, Anthony Doerr has given readers a chilling look at the German occupation of France in World War II … There is a palpable buildup of tension as Werner’s unit enters the outskirts of Saint-Malo, and as Marie-Laure is left to her own devices when Etienne is detained for questioning by the German occupiers. Mr. Doerr doesn’t disappoint the reader in bringing both of the youngsters’ lives to a dramatic counterpoint … The craftsmanship of Mr. Doerr’s book is rooted in his ability to inhabit the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner … In the century before the two world wars, Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman said: ‘War is cruelty.’ Mr. Doerr has depicted two youngsters who demonstrate this very point.
Science and the natural world here take on the role of the supernatural in a traditional fairy tale. The geology of diamonds forming, the biology of mollusks and snails and other shelled creatures, the mysteries of electromagnetism and trigonometry and radio waves — these are the details that provoke a sense of wonder, in the characters as well as in us … Doerr doesn’t look away from the ugliness of the war, but he doesn’t let it dominate the story...Thus, when moments of violence do appear, they remain more memorable in contrast … Marie-Laure’s blindness allows Doerr to luxuriate in the sensory details of sound, smell and the tactile geometry of objects. In the writing, he sets himself alongside authors...who create historical scenes using poetic language, choosing the sensation of the intense close-up over explanation.
Doerr writes sentences that are clear-eyed, taut, sweetly lyrical and never elusive … Eventually, Werner and Marie's stories converge, and Doerr offers up a surprisingly hopeful culmination of events. Seashells, waves, architecture, the brutal battlements of war, the power of radio, coming of age in the time of war: Doerr connects every seemingly disparate element. Every sentence is an act of compassion. There's not a fuzzy or lagging moment … This is a beautiful book, an astounding meditation on the paradoxes of fate, human relationships and nature.