Light Found in Darkness of Wartime
"Boy meets girl in Anthony Doerr’s hauntingly beautiful new book, but the circumstances are as elegantly circuitous as they can be. The heroine of “All the Light We Cannot See” is blind, but anyone familiar with Mr. Doerr’s work, which includes the short-story collections “The Shell Collector” and “Memory Wall,” will know that its title has many more meanings than that.
The heroine is Marie-Laure LeBlanc, whose loving father, a talented locksmith, goes to extraordinary lengths to help her compensate for the loss of her eyesight. Professionally, Marie-Laure’s father oversees all the locks at the Museum of Natural History in Paris. Privately, after his daughter is blinded by cataracts in 1934 at the age of 6, he devises tiny, intricate models of the places she must go, so that she learns to navigate by touch and then by memory.
Mr. Doerr’s acutely sensory style captures the extreme perceptiveness Marie-Laure has developed by the time World War II begins. Much of the story unfolds during the war, although it jumps back and forth. The book opens in August 1944, two months after D-Day, with the sound of things falling from the sky and rattling against windows. Marie-Laure knows these are leaflets. She can smell the fresh ink.