Is All the Light We Cannot See based on a book?

Chris Tilly
A young blind girl holds a cane in All the Light We Cannot See.

Big-budget four-part series All the Light We Cannot See launches on Netflix this week, but is the period drama based on a book?

Created by twin-producing powerhouses Shawn Levy and Steven Knight, All the Night We Cannot See is set during WWII, with the official synopsis as follows:

“All the Light We Cannot See tells the story of Marie-Laure Leblanc, a blind French girl taking refuge with her father and reclusive uncle in St. Malo, France, and Werner, a brilliant teenager enlisted by Hitler’s regime with an expertise in radio repair. Together they share a secret connection that will become a beacon of light that leads them through the harrowing backdrop of WWII.”

Levy directs all four episodes, with the cast featuring Louis Hofmann, Lars Eidinger, Marion Bailey, Hugh Laurie, Mark Ruffalo, and newcomer Aria Mia Loberti.

Is All the Light We Cannot See based on a book?

Yes, All the Light We Cannot See is based on a novel of the same name by Anthony Doerr. The book was published in 2014 and went on to win the Pulitzer Prize.

Levy read the tome at the time, and told Netflix: “What I remember most is devouring the book, [and] being so captivated by its cross-cutting structure and themes of innocence in the face of darkness, hope in the face of evil.”

He then says he remembers thinking “I need to make this book. I need it. I need to make it. It’s my dream.” But the novel was being made into a movie at the time, so Levy had to be patient. And when the movie fell apart, he pitched a series, stating: “There is too much story for two hours. The sheer runtime that limited series affords allows us to do justice more thoroughly to the source material [so that] it is indeed the novel come to life rather than the novel cut down to fit a runtime or format.”

That made the book’s author happy, with Doerr telling Netflix: “I loved that [Shawn] saw a potential adaptation as a limited series: something longer than a feature film, with more room to breathe so that it would be possible to balance the big, dark dramatic sequences with smaller, brighter, domestic ones,”

What is the novel about?

The book has much the same plot as the series, with the novel’s official synopsis as follows: “For Marie-Laure, blind since the age of six, the world is full of mazes. The miniature of a Paris neighborhood, made by her father to teach her the way home. The microscopic layers within the invaluable diamond that her father guards in the Museum of Natural History. The walled city by the sea, where father and daughter take refuge when the Nazis invade Paris. And a future which draws her ever closer to Werner, a German orphan, destined to labor in the mines until a broken radio fills his life with possibility and brings him to the notice of the Hitler Youth.”

All the Light We Cannot see drops on Netflix on November 2, 2023. For more TV & Movies coverage, head here.