Illuminating the Senses

Reviewed: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

I get why it took Anthony Doerr 10 years to write this novel.

All the Light We Cannot See is an intricate story of two protagonists: Marie-Laure LeBlanc, a blind girl living in 1944 Saint-Malo, and Werner Pfennig, a child prodigy with a knack for electrical circuitry. When Marie loses her sight at the age of six to cataracts, her father, a locksmith at the Museum of Natural History in Paris, constructs detailed miniature models of the city for her to memorize. He goes to extraordinary lengths to help her adapt to her blindness as the war approaches, and as the bombs begin to drop, Marie’s extreme perceptiveness with her four remaining senses provides a tense and fresh portrayal of modern history’s most brutal war. Meanwhile, Werner and his sister, Jutta, live in an orphanage. As Werner grows older, he learns that the German government will send him to work in the coal mines when he comes of age — the same coal mines responsible for the death of his father — but his talent for repairing radios unlocks new opportunities as the war lurks closer.