Marie-Laure LeBlanc is alone in her Uncle’s home when she hears the approach of American planes on their path to bombing the city where she resides. Except for the Germans there are few residents left thanks to the flyers previously dropped by the Americans warning the French citizens to evacuate or be killed. It is apprently the intention of the Allies to level the city – one of the last strongholds of the German forces. But Marie-Laure knows nothing of this as she is blind and cannot see the flyers. Not far away is a young German man named Werner who is a radio specialist. During the bombing he is one of three men who make it to an underground cellar. By the time the bombing is over, he is able to dig out from the cellar. During the war he has been part of a small force that moves from town to town tracking down and destroying the radio broadcasts of the French Resistance. When Werner is once again above ground, he tracks down the radio wires that lead him to Marie-Laure’s uncle’ house.
Flashbacks take the reader to an earlier time when Werner and his younger sister Jutta are still in the orphans’s home. The children like to go out and scavenge and Werner teaches himself to build and fix a radio receiver from spare parts. It is his greatest pleasure during those years to tune in to a scratchy broadcast of an older gentleman who speaks of all things: scientific, spiritual, and so much more. It is those broadcasts, made by the heavily foreign accented voice, that make orphan life bearable.
Thus when the soldier Werner has become meets Marie-Laure at the house where he has gone to destroy the radio transmitter, it suddenly realizes that this is the place where those childhood broadcasts were made and that it is this girl’s uncle whose voice he remembers. What follows is one of the most touching scenes I have read this year.
ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE is a wonderful commentary on coming of age during World War II. Additionally it is a wonderful look at the war from two distinctly different viewpoints. The writing is crisp and carries the reader along in a pleasantly consistent fashion. At the conclusion, I found myself hoping for a second book to follow the lives further in post-war years. All in all, a terrific book you will enjoy.