All the Light We Cannot See

Anthony Doerr, Author
Anthony Doerr. Scribner, $27 (544p) ISBN 978-1-4767-4658-6
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Hardcover - 771 pages - 978-1-4104-7022-5
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Hardcover - 544 pages - 978-0-00-754867-5
Hardcover - 531 pages - 978-0-00-754866-8
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Hardcover - 15 pages - 978-0-00-759044-5
Hardcover - 544 pages - 978-0-00-754869-9
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In 1944, the U.S. Air Force bombed the Nazi-occupied French coastal town of St. Malo. Doerr (Memory Wall) starts his story just before the bombing, then goes back to 1934 to describe two childhoods: those of Werner and Marie-Laure. We meet Werner as a tow-headed German orphan whose math skills earn him a place in an elite Nazi training school—saving him from a life in the mines, but forcing him to continually choose between opportunity and morality. Marie-Laure is blind and grows up in Paris, where her father is a locksmith for the Museum of Natural History, until the fall of Paris forces them to St. Malo, the home of Marie-Laure’s eccentric great-uncle, who, along with his longtime housekeeper, joins the Resistance. Doerr throws in a possibly cursed sapphire and the Nazi gemologist searching for it, and weaves in radio, German propaganda, coded partisan messages, scientific facts, and Jules Verne. Eventually, the bombs fall, and the characters’ paths converge, before diverging in the long aftermath that is the rest of the 20th century. If a book’s success can be measured by its ability to move readers and the number of memorable characters it has, Story Prize–winner Doerr’s novel triumphs on both counts. Along the way, he convinces readers that new stories can still be told about this well-trod period, and that war—despite its desperation, cruelty, and harrowing moral choices—cannot negate the pleasures of the world. (May)
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