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All the Light We Cannot SeeBy: Anthony Doerr

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Marie-Laure lives with her father, who works at the Museum of Natural History, in Paris. When the Nazis take over, they flee to Saint Malo, her father carrying with them the sea of flames-- an incredibly valuable gemstone. Legend has it that the person who possesses the stone will live forever. There, they meet up with her great uncle, Etienne. A few months later, Marie-Laure's father is summoned to the Museum, so he leaves his daughter behind to keep her safe. On his way, he was arrested and taken to a camp, and he was never seen again. He manages to send Marie-Laure letters through which he tells her about the sea of flames and its location.Elsewhere, Reinhold von Rumpel, a German officer, is dying of cancer. In a race to save his own life, he desperately tries to find the sea of flames to heal himself. He finds three fakes and finally traces location of the last, real stone down to Saint Malo.Meanwhile, Werner and his sister Jutta live in an orphanage in Germany. He finds a very damaged radio and against all odds, fixes it. This sparks his interest in engineering. Soon enough, he is fixing everything broken in town. His talents do not go unnoticed, and he is recuited to go to Hitler Youth. Here he frequently lacks the power to stand up, like when his friend Frederick is voted the weakest. Frederick is bullied and beaten up so bad that he is sent home. A few years later, his teacher lies about his age and says he is 18 so he can go out in the field, where Werner uses the gadget that he constructed to hunt down illegal radios with his team. He eventually makes his way to Saint Malo and detects a radio broadcast-- Etienne's. Werner goes to the house himself to make the arrest, but he stops short when he sees Marie-Laure. Instantly, he falls in love. Werner turns away and tries to hide the location of the radio from the rest of his team, protecting Marie-Laure and her great uncle. At this point, D-Day has already happened, and the Germans are putting up their last effort to hold onto the city. Etienne LeBlanc is taken away. The sirens sound. The Americans are about to bomb Saint Malo.Marie-Laure goes into the basement of her house, Werner goes into the basement of the hotel he is staying at, and von Rumpel watches the city from a distance, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. The bombs fall. Von Rumpel makes his move.Marie-Laure comes out of the basement. She hears someone come in. It's von Rumpel. She knows he is looking for the stone, so she goes upstairs and gets the tiny model house. She hides in the attic where the illegal radio is hidden.A large piece of rubble traps Werner and three other members of his team in the hotel basement. One is dead, one is dying. Some time passes, and only Werner and his colleague Volkheimer are left. He has with him a radio that's been damaged. He gets it to work, and he hears a French girl's voice reading Fifty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. It gives Werner comfort. There's dynamite. Should they risk using it when they are surrounding by a bunch of live shells? They do, and they escape.In the attic, Marie-Laure finishes reading the book and stops broadcasting. It has been days, and she is tired of sitting and hiding. She climbs down the ladder and waits at the door that's obscured by a wardrobe. She's about to come out whe she hears a commotion outside of the wardrobe.Werner has gone to see the girl. Inside, he comes across a man ransacking the house. He takes him out, saving Marie-Laure. She comes out of the closet, and they talk for a little bit. Werner then accompanies her to the train to leave the city (Civillians given time to escape before next bombing). On her way out, she throws the little house with the sea of flames into a little grotto connected to the ocean. Before she leaves, she gives Werner the key that opened the little house. They never saw each other again.After the war, Werner gets sick and is taken to a hospital tent. His condition gets worse, and he eventually stumbles outside into the woods and steps on a land mine. Ironically, it was a German land mine that was never deactivated. Marie-Laure and Etienne found each other again. Together they travelled the world until Etienne's death. Now Marie-Laure works at the Museum of Natural History. She is not married, but she has a daughter. The book ends in 2014 with Marie-Laure spending time with her grandson.* * *It certainly was not a glamorous ending, but I don't think it was meant to be. This book highlights every event in the story, and I think that was what truly made it stand out as a genuinely amazing, meaningful novel.



The value of love was one of the many themes that stuck out the most to me in this story. Towards the end, Marie-Laure throws a little toy house containing the sea of flames, a gemstone said to be worth the value of five Eiffle Towers, into a grotto so that it may finally be at rest with the sea god. Many years later, Werner's sister shows up and presents her with the same little house. Marie-Laure discovers that Werner had gone into the water to retreive it after she left. Worried that the stone was once again disturbed, she opened the house to find inside the key that she gave Werner before she departured from Saint Malo. He had loved her, and so he left the stone in the sea and put the key in the little house. Werner kept it with him until his ultimate death. To him, the key represented his love for Marie-Laure, and that was worth more than any gemstone, even one worth the value of five Eiffle Towers.


Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a French girl who at first lives in Paris, France but then moves to Saint Malo, France. She is blind and has many freckles, but people say that she is very beautiful. She is very curious and loves to read. She especially likes mollusks and the beach. Despite the hard times of the war, she remains very strong, and she loves her family.Werner Pfennig is a German boy who lives in an orphanage with his sister. He has extremely blond hair and light blue eyes. His exceptional talents in engineering, especially tinkering with radios, lands him a spot in the Hitler Youth. Throughout most of the story, he lacks the courage to stand up, but he finds strength in the end.

This book primarily takes place in Saint Malo, France and spans the time period during World War II.

I really enjoyed this book. I think it was the first book I read set in WWII where the actual story outshined the setting. I would certainly recommend it to friends. The characters were very compelling, and the story was super interesting, while being meaningful all at the same time. The ending was very bittersweet, but it made the story resonate even more.



Author's Website!

*529 page book = A long summary


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