Beautiful Equals All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Posted November 21, 2016 by Pamela Nicole in Reviews / 8 Comments

Beautiful Equals All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony DoerrAll the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Published by Scribner on May 6th 2014
Genres: Emotions & Feelings, Family, Friendship, Historical, Social Issues
Pages: 530


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).

Pamela here, breaking my hiatus to bring you my latest soul-destroying and feel-inducing read.


I’m telling you, out there, in some dictionary, next to the ‘beautiful’ entry, you’ll find All the Light We Cannot See.  To be honest, it was hard for me to read this book. I picked it up, read about 1/4, and then had to stop. It’s been almost a year since that and I finally finished it. I’m so, so glad I did.


I had troubles getting used to the storytelling

Not because it was bad -of course not- but because I’m used to things being more fast-paced. Even in the slowest YA books, things moved faster than here. And again, this isn’t a bad thing, and it didn’t mean that I was necessarily boredd. I just wanted to know things, but book said, ‘umm… no, you’re not ready fo yet. Here, read this instead.’ And that’s how it went. This was what made me give up that first time.


Beautiful doesn’t even begin to describe this writing

We love some stories for so many reasons; sometimes it’s the story itself, the characters, that awesome plot twist, the theme… Sometimes we label writing as beautiful. I’ve done it a few times. And I didn’t know what the fuck I was talking about.

This writing is what really good writing looks like. How do you describe being able to spin the same words we all use in our daily lives in a way that makes us wonder if we’re even speaking the same language because you’re just realizing what they really mean? Because that’s what this author does here. There were so many instances in which I looked at the page and was like ‘Wow, this stuff is so good’.


Is this another World War II book?

Well, most of the story does develop during that time period, and Werner, as a german young man does participate in it; and Marie-Laure, as a french girl, has to go through the german invasion, and Saint-Malo, is bombed and practically leveled.

But this is not a story that was written to tell you that some germans at that time were a crazy bunch that killed a shit load of people. You know history, and you know what happened. I wouldn’t say it tries to convince you to empathize with the german people who committed horrors because it wasn’t their fault they’d been raised that way, because it doesn’t.

The thing is, nothing is that simple. People aren’t born evil, but that doesn’t excuse them. Werner did bad things, and the author never justifies those actions. I like how we see so many shades of the same story, and how this affected all the other people it touched. 

For the span of a page, there was a jewish woman, we see german orphans, we see german officers, russians, men and women, good and bad; and we see two kids, Werner and Marie-Laure, grow into teenagers, thrust into a world that’s so ruthless, and in that single moment when their stories do converge… It’s just makes you belive in the human race just a little bit more. Because it transcends all the other labels, it sheds every barrier until the only thing we can see it’s two humans. They know each other for less than a day, but I won’t ever be forgetting their stories.


You should read this if

  • You like history
  • You like beautiful prose
  • You’re prepared to cry
  • You want to be destroyed, and then put together, and then destroyed again, but just a little bit 🙂


Hi, I’m Pamela, your curly-haired bookdragon friend, here to talk about books, writing, introversion, and everything creativity! I also teach creative writing through workshops and online courses to spanish-speaking writers.

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8 responses to “Beautiful Equals All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

  1. oh oh I do like books that destroy!! I mean, that sounds completely weird to say buuuuut….HEY ALL THE GOOD BOOKS LIKE TO TWIST OUR EMOTIONS, RIGHT?!😂 I have kind of avoided this one though because of the slowness factor. I’m definitely more keen on faster paced books *nods sadly* But I plan to try it eventually, and I’m glad you adored it!!

    • Yes! Although I think this book did rock its pacing. At first I gave up because it’s just not my thing! I have a short attention span, but once I got into it, I REALLY got into it! Happy reading!

  2. What a beautiful review, thank you for sharing this <3 I heard a bit about this book before – Okay, A LOT, but I'm not too much into historical fiction, that's why I didn't read it yet, or added it to my TBR. But I love a good story filled with, well, FEELINGS and maybe I'm weird but heartbreaking stories are often the ones that stay long, long after the last page, and it seems like this book can be just that. I'll think about adding it to my TBR! 😀 Lovely review!