Ten years in the making, Anthony Doerr’s novel All the Light We Cannot See is a remarkable achievement of historical research, storytelling, and character development. The story centers on a blind French girl and an orphaned German boy whose lives intersect in the walled city of Saint-Malo soon after the Normandy invasion. Their respective journeys to that town on the English Channel, and the people and events that shape their lives and destinies, are rendered in meticulous detail with a lyricism that is captivating and unselfconscious. Unfolding in short chapters and across a nonlinear narrative, All the Light We Cannot See is an exquisitely crafted work, with time, place, and people coming fully to life. It’s a novel that will stay with you long after you’ve passed the book on, as I have, to family members and friends.
James Hannan is Commonweal's business manager.