[DISCUSS] CV Offline Bookclub: ‘All the Light We Cannot See’


Thanks for joining this month’s book club. We hope you enjoyed Anthony Doerr’s “All the Light We Cannot See” as much as we did.

Some questions for discussion are below. Whether for a local book club or your own personal growth, we hope these questions spark some conversations about the book.

Please share your thoughts on a question in the comments, or suggest the next book. We will post our next book selection soon!

What do you think….

  1. The story jumps back and forth between the life of Werner and that of Marie-Laure. How did this affect your reading experience? For which character did you feel the most empathy? Did knowing a character on either side of the war make you see WW2 in a different light?
  2. Marie-Laure is blind. How did this affect how you experienced the story? Did you feel that you were also experiencing these events with her because you were literarily “blind”?
  3. As Werner becomes increasingly involved with the Nazis, his conscience nags him. Although not described as “conscience” in the book, his innate knowledge of right and wrong is presented as “doubts,” in the form of a childhood memory, or as a letter from his sister. How does conscience work on Werner throughout the novel? Does this struggle make him more relatable?
  4. Although both Marie-Laure and Werner come from broken families, the memory of their parents plays an integral role in their lives as young adults. Throughout the story, how do Marie-Laure and Werner benefit from having the memory of a mother and father? How does the knowledge that they were loved affect their actions?
  5. Doerr frequently uses descriptive language about the natural world — from the science museum, to the sound of the ocean, to the color of birds. One might argue that Werner’s classmate, Frederick, is a literary tool representing nature. How does nature lead the characters to the truth? How does the destruction of nature — or alienation from it — signal evil?
  6. The radio plays a major part in the story- from Werner’s curious youth to Marie-Laure’s participation in the resistance. How do you think the impact of the radio then compares to the impact of the internet on today’s society?
  7. At the end of the book, Marie-Laure sits on a bench beside her grandson, who plays a game on his phone and seems not to notice the world in the way she does. In the modern day, we are more and more distracted by technology and disconnected from the natural world. Considering the importance of truth and nature in the book, what dangers does this disconnection pose today?
  8. Doerr rarely, if ever, incorporates explicit Christian imagery in the novel. His conceptions of what might happen after death are similarly vague. He writes of souls floating in and out of the world, but seems to have no sense of an afterlife. How might a strong belief in the afterlife have changed Marie-Laure’s and Jutta’s perspectives at the end of the novel?
  9. Discuss the themes of good v. evil throughout the story. How do they drive each other? What do you think are the ultimate lessons that these characters and the resolution of their stories teach us?
  10. Think about the title of the book. “All the Light We Cannot See.” How does Marie-Laure experience light despite her blindness? In the darkness of war, where and when does Werner find light?

The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of CatholicVote.org


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