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"All the Light We Cannot See" by Anthony Doerr, winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

Updated on November 23, 2015
Anthony Doerr, winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for his novel, All the Light We Cannot See
Anthony Doerr, winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for his novel, All the Light We Cannot See | Source

Doerr's reaction to winning the Pulitzer win

"It's hard to think that I really belong on that list. I really haven't had a chance to understand what this means. It's so overwhelming."

~ Anthony Doerr

Interview with Anthony Doerr

Nice guys finish last, right? Not in this case. The literary community's reaction to Anthony Doerr's Pulitzer Prize win is "How cool that the nicest man I've ever met wins a Pulitzer." So one of it's own wins one of the highest literary honors in the world.

One of my favorite novels I have read, All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr, has won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction it was announced yesterday, April 20, 2015. This book is right up there with The Book Thief, another one of my favorites.

The Pulitzer Prize goes to "distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life." Although this novel does not deal with American life per se it is nonetheless worthy of the Pulitzer Prize.

The Pulitzer Prizes are in their 99th year and are awarded by Columbia University School of Journalism.

Doerr was in Paris eating ice cream at home with his twin boys when he heard the news of his win. It is fitting that he was in Paris promoting his novel as it takes place in Paris and Saint Malo, France.

The Pulitizer Prize judging committee has called the novel, "an imaginative and intricate novel which is written in short, elegant chapters that explore human nature and the contradicting power of technology."

The novel takes place during the German occupation of France during WWII. Technology?you are asking? The technology of radio during WWII and its uses are explored in this novel.

I have always had an interest and love of WWII stories and novels and I have written some WWII short stories myself. I think, like Doerr, I am drawn to the darkness of the times and the gradual dawning of the light by the end of the war.

The novel is the story of Marie, a young French girl, who goes blind at the age of six and who flees with her father from German occupied Paris to Saint Malo. Her father, so understanding of her blindness, constructs miniature models of the cities of Paris and Saint Malo, so that through touch she is able to learn and then to navigate both cities on her own. Marie certainly is not a timid girl because of this. She confidently is able to get around both cities.

Marie's story becomes intertwined with that of Werner, a German soldier, whose genius with radios makes him an expert tracker of the French resistance movement, and by the end of the novel ends up in Saint Malo where Marie is.

The development of the radio and its uses during WWII was a fascination of Doerr's and he incorporated his fascination into the novel.

The book is organized into short chapters that jump back and forth between his two story lines; that of Marie, and that of Werner. Both of the characters are enveloped in darkness: Marie is trapped in blindness and Werner is trapped in the darkness of Nazism.

Marie reads her stories over the radio in Saint Malo which Werner is able to pick up on his radio, and through her stories, she brings light into Werner's dark world and he begins to question his loyalty to the Nazi's.

The novel has been a runaway success and has spent forty-nine weeks on the NYTimes Best Seller list. There are an estimated 1.6 million copies (both hardcover and e-Books) in circulation.

Doerr said he preferred to write short chapters in his novel because, "I just didn't want to lead the reader away from either one of the narratives for long."

That structure certainly helped with the book's success. It is a very graceful read.

The publisher, Scribner, will be printing an additional one hundred thousand copies since the announcement of the Pulitzer Prize yesterday.

Critics embraced All the Light We Cannot See after its release in May 2014. As readers discovered the novel, it grew in popularity. It landed on the NYTimes Best Seller list in June 2014 and since then has been in the top ten for all these weeks.

The LA Times, has described the novel as "ambitious and majestic with bluntness or over dependence on heartbreak.

This novel was also a finalist for the National Book Award in November 2014 and was one of 1,400 novels submitted for the Pulitzer Prize.

Judging of the Pulitzer book entries is a two-fold effort: first, a nominating jury reads through the submitted books and second, the jury then puts forward the finalists to the Pulitzer board. There must be a majority on the board in agreement on the top prize. If not, no prize is given.

this novel is . . . a piece of luck for anyone with a long plane journey or a beach holiday ahead. It is such a page turner entirely absorbing: one of those books in which the talent of the storyteller surmounts stylistic inadequacies and ultimately defies one's better judgment.

— Carmen Callil, reviewer for the Guardian


Goodreads Choice Awards Best Historical Fiction

Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Arts, U.S. and Canada (2010)

The Story Prize winner from Memory Wall (2011)

Finalist National Book Award for Fiction (2014)

Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (2015)

Anthony Doerr 1973 -

Anthony Doerr is an American author of novels and short stories and he has gained widespread recognition for his 2014 novel, All the Light We Cannot See.

Doerr grew up in Novelty, Ohio and attended nearby University School graduating from high school in 1991. He lived for a while in Cleveland, OH.

He earned a BA in history from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine graduating in 1995; and his MFA is from Bowling Green State University in Ohio.

He is married and the father of twin boys, eleven years old. In 2003 he moved to Boise, Idaho, his wife's hometown, and they have lived there ever since then.

He is believed to be Idaho's first official Pulitzer Prize for Fiction winner. Hemingway won a Pulitzer Prize for The Old Man and the Sea, but he did not live in Idaho until much later after his win.

It took Doerr ten years to complete his novel and he worked on and agonized over All the Light We Cannot See in his downtown Boise office over the decade.

He took several breaks from writing his novel to write short stories. Memory Wall, won The Story Prize in 2011 and The Deep won the London Times Story Prize in 2012.

He has published two short story collections, Shell Collector (2002) in which many of the stories take place in Africa and New Zealand where he has worked and lived. Memory Wall (2010) is another collection of his short stories.

Doerr also writes a column on science books for the Boston Globe and is a contributor to The Morning News, an on-line magazine.

From 2007 - 2010 he was writer-in-residence for the state of Idaho.

Today, he and his wife are raising their eleven year old twin boys in Boise. Doerr coaches flag football for his son's team and takes his boys skiing and on nature hikes from their backyard.


Anthony Doerr's writings


About Grace (2004)

All the Light We Cannot See (2014)

Short Story Collections:

The Shell Collector (2002)

Memory Wall (2010)


Four Seasons in Rome: On Twins, Insomnia and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World (20070

Doerr reads from All the Light We Cannot See


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    • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

      Suzette Walker 

      4 years ago from Taos, NM

      Laura: You won't be disappointed. I found the book fascinating and highly recommend it.

    • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

      Suzette Walker 

      4 years ago from Taos, NM

      Essie: hello! No I am not on Goodreads but I will look into it. Yes, I do have some WWII novel recommendations. The Plum Tree by Ellen Marie Wiseman; The Nightengale by Kristin Hannah are two I have recently read and would recommend to you. I have read all 8 books of the Outlander series. I found all of them intriguing and interesting. The second book does get better. These books are more than just "bodice rippers." I like the adventure, the historical background, and the time travel. Yes, I did have to use my willing suspension of disbelief in some areas, but I still find the books fascinating. Supposedly she is writing a 9th book. All her books are very accurate. Thanks so much for stopping by to read this.

    • Laura335 profile image

      Laura Smith 

      4 years ago from Pittsburgh, PA

      I've been hearing good things about this book. I think it's about time I pick it up. Thanks for the boost!

    • EsJam profile image


      4 years ago from Southern California

      Good to hear from you, Suzette! Are you by any chance on Goodreads? I have a selection of books of WWII that I have read and would like to recommend. Maybe you could recommend some to me, as well. Thank you!

      p.s. I read the first book of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. I thoroughly enjoyed the first one. For some odd reason, I couldn't get into the 2nd one as much.

    • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

      Suzette Walker 

      4 years ago from Taos, NM

      Essie: I am so pleased you enjoyed reading this. This is quite the interesting story for all the reasons you state. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and was thrilled when it won the Pulitzer Prize. I love WWII stories to this was right up my alley. Thanks so much for your visit and comments. Most appreciated.

    • EsJam profile image


      4 years ago from Southern California

      Nice to see this Hub! I listened to the audio version, it kept me company on my runs! And I loved it. I enjoyed the way the story unfolded, slowly, revealing things when the time was just right. I loved the blind protagonist and that her father loved her deeply and taught her independence. I loved the imagery and detail of going to the tidepools, and weaving the backdrop of WWII and the radio into the book. Your author biographical information was an added delight. Essie.

    • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

      Suzette Walker 

      4 years ago from Taos, NM

      Hi Kim: So good to hear from you. Sorry I have taken so long to reply, but I have been caught up in personal business and haven't been on HP for a while. I am so pleased you enjoyed reading this. The novel is terrific. When I read quality literature I like to pass it on so everyone can enjoy it. When I taught, even though I was teaching Spanish, the English teachers would ask my opinion and for suggestions for novels they could use in the classroom with their students. I have been recommending novels for quite some time now and I love doing it. The teachers were pleased with my suggestions and the kids did love the novels too. I am am a voracious reader and have been since I was a child. This summer I am reading the Outlander series of books and I highly recommend them too. They are so well done. The author is Diana Gabaldon and she certainly knows how to weave a story. I am into book six out of eight books and I hear she is writing a 9th for the series. I will get to your HP sight soon and get caught up on your writings. So glad to see all is well with you! Hugs!!!

    • ocfireflies profile image


      4 years ago from North Carolina


      I can't wait to read this book. Girlfriend, you always have the goods on what is good...or in this particular case Pulitzer good. Voted up and shared for sure.



    • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

      Suzette Walker 

      4 years ago from Taos, NM

      lady: glad you enjoyed reading this and I think you will enjoy this novel. I will check out this author, Daniel Goldhagen as I have not heard of him before. Thanks so much for your visit and the name of a new author for me.

    • ladyguitarpicker profile image

      stella vadakin 

      4 years ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

      I will read this novel when I finish the book I am reading, by Daniel Goldhagen. You have given me my next book to read, as I love that period of time as it is so interesting. Wonderful hub.

    • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

      Suzette Walker 

      4 years ago from Taos, NM

      Nell: I am so pleased you checked out this novel and like it. Enjoy the read as I did. So glad he won the Pulitzer for this novel as it is quite an interesting and well written book.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      4 years ago from England

      Hi suzette, after reading this I shot across for a quick read on Amazon, only the first few pages but you got me hooked! great review, now I have a book that needs ordering! lol!

    • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

      Suzette Walker 

      4 years ago from Taos, NM

      Bill, I had never heard of him until I read the novel then I was pleased when it won the Pulitzer. It really is a good novel and I think you would enjoy it.

    • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

      Suzette Walker 

      4 years ago from Taos, NM

      Hi Audrey: I think you will enjoy this. I have really enjoyed your poetry this past month.

    • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

      Suzette Walker 

      4 years ago from Taos, NM

      manatita: sorry it took my so long to respond, but my laptop has been on the blink. Thanks so much for reading this and I am glad you enjoyed it. Until, I read his novel, I had not heard of him myself. I was so pleased when he won the Pulitzer.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Shows you how little I know. I've never heard of this gentleman. I guess I now owe it to myself to read his book. Thanks for the heads-up.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 

      4 years ago from California

      This is going on my short list to read! Thank you!

    • manatita44 profile image


      4 years ago from london

      Interesting. I did not know of him, but his background seems solid as far as writing is concerned, so I'm not surprised. Nice title too.

    • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

      Suzette Walker 

      4 years ago from Taos, NM

      Susan: Yes, do read the novel. I highly recommend it as it is a beautiful story. Thank you so much for stopping by to read and for your comments.

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 

      4 years ago from Arkansas USA

      Glad you wrote this. I was aware of the book, but I haven't read it. I'll have to remedy that situation soon, not just because of the award but because of the outstanding, "real person" reader reviews (sometimes things don't work out that way). Thanks!

    • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

      Suzette Walker 

      4 years ago from Taos, NM

      Zelda: Thank you for reading this and I am glad you enjoyed it. Yes, I highly recommend the novel.

    • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

      Suzette Walker 

      4 years ago from Taos, NM

      Genna: It is interesting to hear how long and how these award winning authors write their novels. I highly recommend it and I know you will enjoy it. This author comes across as so down to earth too. Thanks so much for your visit and your comments.

    • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

      Suzette Walker 

      4 years ago from Taos, NM

      Dolores: Thanks so much for your visit and I am glad you enjoyed reading this. Yes, I highly recommend this novel. It really gets good at the end and becomes quite the thriller. I didn't want to give too much of the book away as I didn't want to ruin it for those who haven't read it.

    • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

      Suzette Walker 

      4 years ago from Taos, NM

      Chitrangada: I think you will like this novel and I highly recommend it. I just read this about six months ago and now it has won the Pulitzer and it seems everything happened so fast. It was interesting to read that he took ten years writing this novel. I guess the key is to be persistent and never give up. Thanks for stopping by to visit and read this.

    • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

      Suzette Walker 

      4 years ago from Taos, NM

      Hi Faith: I tend to write in spurts! LOL! I don't think I had written anything for many months and then all of the sudden I have been inspired to write so I have written four of five hubs here in the last two weeks. I am so glad you read this and you will enjoy the novel. I was delighted when I heard it won the Pulitzer. I had been reading that the novel was being well received by the critics. To think it was picked out of 1,400 entrants. That is something!

    • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

      Suzette Walker 

      4 years ago from Taos, NM

      Mike: The reason I like writing these is because it is good for all of us to learn the writing process these award-winning authors go through. You don't have to be a quick writer, just a persistent one. Yes, this novel just jumped to the top of the NYTimes Best Seller list. I usually check to list out and then choose my novels to read. This is the first time I read the book and then it won the Pulitzer. I usually read them after they have won. LOL! It is an enjoyable novel and I highly recommend it.

    • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

      Suzette Walker 

      4 years ago from Taos, NM

      Thank you Audrey for reading this and sharing it. I really enjoyed the book and I highly recommend it. Thanks for stopping by to visit.

    • ZeldaMes profile image

      Zelda Mes 

      4 years ago from South Africa

      Thank you for the tip off. I can't wait to go and read it.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 

      4 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Ten years to write…I am reminded of another great author, Nelle Harper Lee, who took years to write Mockingbird. This novel has all the elements I love in fiction writing. I will definitely purchase this amazing work soon, and have no doubt that I will love it. This promises to be a rare treat. Thank you!

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      4 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Always looking for a good read and any prize winners are sure to work out well. I heard this book discussed on NPR and am glad for this reminder.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      4 years ago from New Delhi, India

      This is an interesting and informative hub.

      I had not heard about Anthony Doerr, the author. The title of the book, 'All the life we cannot see', for which he has been awarded, sounds interesting.

      Learning so much about the author through this hub, I am definitely interested to read the book as well.

      Thank you for sharing! Voted up!

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 

      4 years ago from southern USA

      Hi suzette,

      Thank you for this wonderful hub here of a truly gifted writer. I must read his novel. His ten years of hard work paid off in the end.

      I am so glad to see you publishing. I will check to see if I have missed some of your interesting hubs here of late.

      Thank you for highlighting this writer.

      Blessings always

    • mckbirdbks profile image


      4 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello suzette. This is a great presentation. I went and looked up some reviews when I heard the Pulitzer Prize award had been made. It sounds like a very good novel. Among the most interesting bits of information you put forth is that it took Mr. Doerr, ten years to write and be satisfied with his novel. That was not that unusual in earlier days of publishing.

      Selling 1.6 million copies is another of the interesting bits.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 

      4 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      I'm so glad you wrote this hub Suzette as I wouldn't want to miss reading this novel by Anthony Doerr. Thank you for this great introduction and you can bet I'll be sharing!

    • suzettenaples profile imageAUTHOR

      Suzette Walker 

      4 years ago from Taos, NM

      John: I am so glad you enjoyed reading this and being introduced to Doerr. I read this book about six months ago and I loved it. It is fascinating. I had not heard of him before reading this novel. He has had a continuous but quiet writing career until this novel which won him the Pulitzer. I am thrilled that this novel won the Pulitzer and I highly recommend it to anyone to read.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      4 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Thank you for sharing this Suzette. I hadn't heard of Anthony Doerr or his work before. "All the Light We Cannot See" sounds like a wonderful read and my type of novel. He is a young man and obviously well deserving. I will have to look for this novel. Voted up.


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