— Timea Saghy/Netflix
Netflix’s new World War II drama, All the Light We Cannot See, is based on Anthony Doerr’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Upon its 2014 release, the book took readers by storm — including series director and executive producer Shawn Levy, who told Netflix he was inspired by the story’s “cross-cutting structure and themes of innocence in the face of darkness, hope in the face of evil.”Levy wanted to turn the book into a limited series instead of a movie, he explained, because “there is too much story for two hours.” So, the Netflix adaptation runs for four installments of approximately an hour apiece. If you want to get a sense of the ride before settling in for a marathon session, here’s an All the Light We Cannot See book summary — including its full-circle ending.
The book is told from multiple characters’ perspectives, primarily Marie-Laure LeBlanc and Werner Pfennig, two teenagers who have grown up during World War II in Europe.Marie-Laure, who went blind as a child due to congenital cataracts, lives in Paris with her father, a museum worker named Daniel. To escape invading Nazis, they flee to the city of Saint-Malo and live with Marie-Laure’s great-uncle, Etienne, and his housekeeper, Madame Manec. Before they left, Daniel was also tasked with carrying a rare stone from the museum: the Sea of Flames. (This will be important later.) — NetflixDaniel builds a scale model of the new neighborhood so Marie-Laure can get familiar with her surroundings. Sadly, Daniel is captured and imprisoned, and Madame Manec dies of an illness. In their absence, Marie-Laure and Etienne carry on Madame Manec’s work with the resistance movement.They do this by transmitting codes from Etienne’s hidden radio device. As it turns out, Etienne previously used the device to share educational broadcasts from his late brother — Marie-Laure’s grandfather.
A Surprising Connection
One avid listener of said broadcasts was a German boy named Werner, who grew up in an orphanage alongside his sister, Jutta.He is sent to a specialized school and then summoned to join the Nazi Army, where he uses his knowledge of radio technology to help intercept Allied communications. — Katalin Vermes/Netflix
That work brings him to Saint-Malo, where he hears one of the old educational broadcasts he enjoyed as a child. He’s so moved by the memory that he doesn’t reveal the discovery with his fellow soldier — a traitorous move.
Werner’s Life-Saving Fate
Werner observes Marie-Laure leaving the house of the signal’s origin, and is transfixed by her. So when the city is bombed and he hears what could be the girl’s final transmissions, he goes to find her.In the house, he encounters a gem expert for the Nazis, von Rumpel, who has been tracking down the Sea of Flames. The gem is supposedly cursed, granting its owner eternal life but dooming all their loved ones to death. When Werner realizes von Rumpel may have killed Marie-Laure, he shoots him dead and rescues the girl from her hideaway.
Back To The Ocean
After sharing a celebratory meal, Werner imagines a future with Marie-Laure. However, their time together is short-lived. Marie-Laure drops the Sea of Flames into a local grotto, so it can return to the sea — and hopefully end the curse. — Atsushi Nishijima/NetflixThe resistance captures Werner, who ultimately dies after stepping on a German landmine.Marie-Laure only learns of Werner’s fate years later, when Jutta tracks her down. Both women lived long lives and had families after the war, with Marie-Laure working at her father’s museum and Jutta becoming a teacher.