Who could have conceived of a love story between a blind French girl and an orphaned German boy adept at repairing radios during World War II? The girl, Marie-Laure LeBlanc, has first her father, then her great-uncle, to help her find her way. Both are taken prisoner by the Germans, and she is alone. Then Werner Pfennig, a member of the German Youth Movement, comes into her life.
There is brutality, there is cruelty, but there is also compassion, music, and story-telling. Werner’s job is to find and destroy the radios that are transmitting information to the British and the Americans. With the Allied forces landing on the beaches at Normandy and enemy planes in the air, Werner hears something on the radio that reminds him of the broadcasts he heard when he was a child in the orphanage.
It is the radio and the things Werner hears that bring him to the coastal village of Saint-Malo where Marie-Laure is hiding. The music she plays, the stories she “reads,” and finally, her cry for help, draw him to her. Ultimately, they cause him to reject the brutality of war and the role he has played in it.
Ten years in the writing, All the Light We Cannot See is richly layered, intricately plotted, and breathtakingly beautiful. Reading it, you know you are in the hands of a master story-teller.
The world Anthony Doerr has created, though filled with the horror of war, is full of light.