All The Light We Cannot See

Bibliographic Data:

Doerr, Anthony. (2014). All The Light We Cannot See. New York: Scribner. Print.

Book Summary:

Set during the days of World War II, Doerr presents two characters, Marie Laure LeBlanc and Werner Pfennig who grow from children to adults through the experiences brought on by the war.  Marie Laure’s father, a locksmith at a museum in Paris is charged with saving a precious jewel by swindling it out of the city and hiding it from the Germans.  Not knowing that the jewel is in their possession, Marie Laure attempts to make sense of the changes in her life, tracking the sounds and smells of her sightless world.  At the same time, Werner Pfennig, a mechanical savant, is selected to train to become a member of the German army.  Impressing his teachers, Werner excels in all things mathematical and electronic.  However, as Werner climbs higher and higher as a successful cadet, his spirits sink lower and lower as he struggles to determine right from wrong in this new world.  The two main characters struggle to establish who they are based on where they came from, and all the while their paths inch closer and closer to one another.

Critical Analysis:

Drawing the reader into the lives of Marie Laure and Werner, Doerr creates a strong empathy for characters, desperate to see an unknown future blossom into happily ever after for both.  Beautifully written, the author mimics Marie Laure’s compensation for blindness in her writing  by including striking detail.  The senses of the reader transition from simply seeing text on a page to hearing the sounds of the cities and the crashings of war, tasting the salt of the sea air and the blood running down the soldiers’ faces, and smelling the delicious meals of Madame Manec and the ash-filled air of the bombed cities.  Doerr writes of a father’s intense love for his child and a child’s desperate love for her father.  A weaker soldier separates himself from his friend so that he does not weigh down the success of his friend.  The struggle of the characters is intense; all seeking right from wrong, success from failure, safety from danger.  The reader will not be able to put this book down until the last page is turned.

Activity Related to the Book:

Maker Space Mechanics

So many libraries are now including a maker space for their patrons to learn through invention.  Grouping students into small groups, allow them to use a limited amount of materials to create a new invention.  Students should write a paper indicating how this invention was made and whom this invention can help.  After each invention has been made, all groups reflect on how this new invention can be used for destruction, opposite of the intention of the engineers.

Resources Related to the THEME of the book:

Resource 1: The Monuments Men

During World War II, Hitler confiscated some of the greatest pieces of art in all the world.  In the book All The Light We Cannot See, Marie Laure LeBlancs father is commissioned to hide a priceless stone that is highly sought after by the Nazis.  Watching portions of this film will help students gain a greater understanding for the importance of preserving these cultural works of art.

Clooney, George (Producer/Director). (2014). The Monuments Men. [Motion Picture]. United States: Columbia Pictures.

Resource 2: The War

World War II was a complicated war on many levels.  Exploring the depth of this war would be beneficial and intriguing to any student who read All The Light We Cannot See.

Burns, Ken and Lynn Novick. (Producers). (2007). The War. [Motion Picture]. United States: Florentine Films and WETA-TV.

Published Review:

(2014). All The Light We Cannot See: Kirkus Review. Retrieved from:


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