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Book review: ‘All the Light We Cannot See’ is a poignant WWII novel

By Elizabeth Reid

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, May 31 2014 4:50 p.m. MDT

"ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE," by Anthony Doerr, Scribner, $27, 531 pages (f)

Marie-Laure’s life is uprooted when she is forced to move from her comfortable home in Paris to a safer French city during World War II. Her father has a secret mission, one that will bring devastation and danger into the lives of those she loves. Blind since she was a young child, Marie-Laure does not let her handicap stop her from enjoying life, learning and helping the French resistance in “All the Light We Cannot See.”

Werner lives in an orphanage with his sister in Nazi Germany. He dreams of becoming an engineer and understanding the mysteries of the physical world. When his talents are discovered, he is sent to an elite Nazi school. While Werner learns more about engineering, he also realizes flaws in his inner strength. Germany's need for more soldiers changes Werner’s adolescence even more when he is sent to help root out and destroy resistance fighters.

The lives of Marie-Laure and Werner collide during a violent time in France. Surrounded by their fighting countrymen, the two teenagers are able to build a foundation of mutual trust and acceptance.

Anthony Doerr writes beautifully and uses words in ways that can encompass readers and make them feel as though they are actually experiencing World War II in Europe. The world of a blind girl is brought to life through his vivid descriptions, and it's easy to sympathize with the plight of the orphan Werner, whose only desire is to learn but who must instead join the violence of his countrymen.

Pivotal to the book is Doerr’s gift of language, and “All the Light We Cannot See” becomes a tour de force. This novel should quickly find its way onto book club lists and bookshelves as a perennial favorite of literature lovers.

“All the Light We Cannot See” deals with war violence, including a brief and very vague rape scene. The novel is sprinkled with a few hard profanities and crudities.

Doerr resides in Boise with his family. He is the recipient of numerous literary awards.

If you go ...

What: Anthony Doerr book signing

When: Thursday, June 12, 7 p.m.

Where: The King's English, 1511 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City

Web: kingsenglish.com, anthonydoerr.com

Note: Places in the signing line are reserved for those who purchase a copy of the featured book from The King's English.

Anthony Doerr on "All the Light We Cannot See"

Author Anthony Doerr talks about his book, "All the Light We Cannot See."

Elizabeth Reid has bachelor's degrees in economics and history. She has worked in retail, medical billing, catering, education and business fields. Her favorite occupation is that of wife and mother. She blogs at gelatoandchocolate.blogspot.com.

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