“Every hour, someone for whom the war was a memory falls out of this world”

All the light we cannot see by Anthony Doerr

A diamond is only a piece of carbon compressed in the bowels of the earth for eons and driven to the surface in a volcanic pipe” (Page 109)  however can you imagine a 133 carat diamond? A giant blue diamond dubbed the Sea of Flames. A fabled diamond as blue as the sea, but with a flair of red at its core. A diamond with a legendary curse attached to it. Legend goes that the keeper of the diamond shall be endowed with the gift of eternal life and curse all that the keeper loves with unending misfortune.  The diamond is housed behind lock and key in the Museum of Natural History in Paris. However the 1930s are a tumultuous times. An era where light is surpressed, the future darkens and the World War looms. Precious artifacts are being smuggled out to “safe places” as the Germans armies approach France.

Thus four identical Sea of Flames diamonds are scattered with four different people. Three are fakes. One is real. No-one knows if they are responsible for the safekeeping of the real diamond. Every carrier should behave as if he carries the real thing. The master locksmith of the Museum of Natural History in Paris is entrusted with one of the diamonds. Thus in 1940 when the Nazis invade France, the widowed locksmith and his blind daughter Marie-Laure flee to the sea-side walled city of Saint-Malo. There they take refuge with the reclusive great-uncle Etienne. All the light we cannot see features the voice and vision of Marie-Laure LeBlanc and another protagonist Werner Pfennig.

German orphan Werner Pfennig has a penchant for maths, scientific inventions and especially radios.  Living in the orphanage with his sister in a coal mining town, his future is sentenced to compulsory service in the mines once he comes of age. It is there that he will join those harvesting the fuel of the Reich. The suggestion fills Werner with dread as it was those same mines that claimed his fathers life. It is both a blessing and a curse when military officers become aware of Werner’s radio mechanical skill. His future forecast changes entirely, Werner is sent for training at the prestigious Hitler Youth Academy and is later sent onto the field.

This novel focuses not on the warfare or the political leaders but on the effect that the war has on ordinary, everydat people, specifically two innocents. The two counter voices are told in parallel stories that of course converge to form a stunning story. All the light we cannot see is presented in short concise chapters some only half a page long that layer together to form a shining beautiful gem of a story.