All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr both is and isn’t about World War II. It is set in the years leading up to and during the war, but it’s as much about each character’s intense longing for the people and things they are most passionate about. There are two main characters, a German boy and a blind French girl. Marie-Laure is blind since early childhood, and her father loves her so much he builds her an intricate scale model of their Paris neighborhood to help her learn it. She perceives the world in vivid detail, “seeing” colors everywhere. With the Germans on their way to Paris, her father tries to take her away to safety.
Werner is an orphan in a German mining town with nothing to hope for but a life in the mines. He is exceptionally gifted with technology and builds a radio out of scraps. He wants more than anything to learn science, and the Nazi regime offers him this opportunity. Will his love for his sister be enough to keep him grounded as he becomes a German soldier? How will these two stories become connected?
As soon as you open this book, you’ll feel the danger, and the love, in these people’s lives. There are hints of the more horrifying aspects of Nazi Germany, as well as caring and tenderness from the most unexpected people.