Anthony Doerr’s novel, “All the Light We Cannot See”, was a finalist for the National Book Award and rated one of the ten best books by the New York Times. The book seems to be written in two alternating sections. One section tells the story of Marie Laure, who lives with her father in Paris. Marie Laure becomes totally blind at the age of six and her father, a craftsman, builds her a replica of their neighborhood to help her get around. He is also an employee of the Museum of Natural History. Knowing the inevitability of Paris’ defeat by Hitler, the employees try to hide as much of the museum’s art and other pieces as possible. Marie Laure’s father is in charge of a valuable jewel desired by the Germans. This places him and his daughter is a very dangerous position.
The other section relates the story of a German orphan, Werner, who comes in possession of a crude radio. He and his sister, Jutta, are enthralled by the programs they pick up from their little radio and listen every day, especially to a gifted storyteller. Werner becomes adept at fixing radios and electronics, and after the Nazis take power in Germany is chosen by the Nazis to be educated at an academy for Hitler Youth. The young boys are taught to be brutal and live only for the Reich. These two narratives converge and the reason for their coming together is very touching.
For me, the writer vividly portrayed Saint-Malo, where Marie lived during the war, and the horror of living in the Reich as did Werner, until he was conscripted into the Nazi army. However, I did have a hard time following the stories at times. I had to re-read many passages to be able to understand what was happening. I know that jumping from one story to another was essential to the writing of the novel, but I found it sometimes irritating because I couldn’t follow the thread.