All the Light
We Cannot See




Anthony Doerr’s novel is as faceted as the Sea of Flames gem, the hidden, coveted jewel that animates major characters and serves as one of the many metaphors for this paradoxically entitled, moving WWII fiction about love and greed, self-absorption and self-sacrifice. Setting chronology aside, Doerr’s gem-cutter skills shine through in his expert management of two parallel stories that move back and forth in time in wrenching, suspenseful arrangement. In the first story, a blind girl and father in Paris must endure the Nazis occupation; in the second, a young German, of the lightest complexion and hair and eye-color, is recruited by the Nazis to serve the war effort with his precocious skills in radio circuitry. The early serendipitous connections between Marie-Laure and Werner — on his secreted, rigged radio he listens to a broadcast made by Marie-Laure’s grandfather in St. Malo — are gradually revealed so that their momentous meeting in St. Malo in August of 1944, two months after D-Day, does not feel contrived but blessed. Werner’s simple exhortation to himself, “Open your eyes and see what you can see with them before they close forever,” is but a pinprick example of the lit-up prose in service of historical and spiritual instruction in this most ambitious, generous, deeply considered masterwork.

— Christine Schutt
2015 finalist judge

2015 Fiction Runner-Up

Anthony Doerr, photo credit Isabelle Selby
Click to see award video

(Click photo to see acceptance speech at awards dinner.)

Anthony Doerr
All the Light We Cannot See

“Systematic hatred depends upon objectifying people into groups, dismantling its adherents’ abilities to understand and share the feelings of others, and minimizing the complexity of the individual. But in the best novels, stories, and poems, we celebrate the individual; we are reminded that even the most distant soul is exactly as human as we are. Literature, I believe, is uniquely qualified to develop our compassion, empathy, and attentiveness — a good piece of writing should be an antidote to hatred. Cheers to the Dayton Literary Peace Prize for recognizing that. Thanks to the judges and congratulations to the winners!”

— Anthony Doerr              


Anthony Doerr was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. He’s the author of five books: the story collections The Shell Collector and Memory Wall; the memoir Four Seasons in Rome; and the novels About Grace and All the Light We Cannot See, which won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the 2015 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. His fiction has been translated into over forty languages and won prizes including the Rome Prize, the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Award, the Barnes & Noble Discover Prize, the National Magazine Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Story Prize. He’s also a regular contributor to Condé Nast Traveler. Doerr lives in Boise, Idaho with his wife and sons.


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