Netflix’s ‘All the Light We Cannot See’ Series Is Emotional, Chilling and Impossible to Turn Off

Here's everything you need to know

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Still from 'All the Light We Cannot See.'
Timea Saghy/Netflix

If you've walked into a bookstore in the past nine years, you've likely spotted the cloudy blue cover of Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See. Since its release in 2014, the war novel has been practically inescapable, selling over 15 million copies worldwide and winning such esteemed prizes as the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction.

Now, Netflix has adapted the acclaimed novel into a four-part miniseries, which dropped in full on the streaming service on November 2. Directed by Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum) and developed by Steven Knight (Spencer), the series follows two teenagers who connect during World War II thanks to a radio broadcast, which keeps them going even as their lives get torn apart.

But does the Netflix series capture fans’ hearts the same way Doerr's historical novel did? Keep reading for our full review, as well as our breakdown of the differences between the show and the book, and all the info we have on a potential second season.

What Is All the Light We Cannot See About?

Our show begins during the Battle of Saint-Malo in 1944. Throughout WWII, the coastal French town of Saint-Malo was used as a fortress by German forces, until the Allies began bombing it in August of ’44.

With the crackle of a radio, a young girl who is blind named Marie-Laure LeBlanc (Aria Mia Loberti) signs on, broadcasting a reading of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, while also sending messages to her family, who she hopes to be reunited with soon.

Somewhere nearby, a young German soldier named Werner Pfennig (Louis Hofmann) tunes in, keeping the broadcast a secret even though his duties require him to track down the radio show’s host. But this secret may be difficult to keep, as we learn that there are Nazi forces who wish to take Marie-Laure down. Good thing Werner will do whatever he can to protect her.

allthelight hero
Atsushi Nishijima/Netflix

PureWow Review: 4 Out of 5 Stars

All the Light We Cannot See is a tense, gripping wartime drama that will have you itching to watch more.

Part of All the Light’s success is thanks to its electric leads, Loberti and Hofmann. Both relatively new faces (you might recognize Hofmann from Dark), these stars totally embody the roles of Marie-Laure and Werner, which helps Doerr’s emotional writing translate to the screen. Plus, we love the star power of Hugh Laurie (House) and Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight), who play Etienne and Daniel LeBlanc (Marie-Laure’s great-uncle and father), respectively.

In addition to the cast, the world-building of All the Light is quite impressive as well. You feel like you've been transported back in time (and it makes the horrors of the series feel even more present). However, for viewers who haven't read the book, the show thrusts them into this wartime setting without much context, which might be somewhat confusing. While the general events of WWII may be well-known, the events leading up to the Battle of Saint-Malo are not, and it would help if viewers were aided in understanding the situation of the civilians who were trapped in the French city.

Still, All the Light We Cannot See is an engrossing watch and it's no wonder that Doerr sold 15 million copies with such a complex story. Be warned: It is an emotionally-upsetting viewing. But it is captivating nonetheless.

allthelight hero2
Atsushi Nishijima/Netflix

Will There Be a Season 2 of All the Light We Cannot See?

While you may have binged the whole show already, don't expect any more episodes to arrive in your queue.

As of right now, there are no plans to make a second season of All the Light We Cannot See. When Netflix first green-lit the series, they ordered four episodes in September 2021. There have been no announcements of any further episodes.

In making All the Light We Cannot See, Doerr spent ten years collecting research, and his work resulted in a 544-page story. Now, you may be wondering how that thick tome got squeezed into four episodes of television, but each installment is approximately an hour long, which allows them to feel like mini-movies recounting the story.

Since the series wraps up Marie-Laure and Werner’s story in (mostly) the same way the book does, it's fair to assume that Levy and Knight have closed this chapter on All the Light We Cannot See.

Still from 'All the Light We Cannot See.'
Katalin Vermes/Netflix

How Does the Miniseries Differ from the Book?

Speaking of the book, devoted fans might be wondering just how much the miniseries differs from its source material.

Similar to the nonlinear structure of Doerr’s novel, the show jumps around in time, alternating between Marie-Laure and Werner’s lives in the early 1930s, as well as their experiences toward the end of WWII.

Meanwhile, there are certain details from the book that readers will love to see come alive on screen, such as the diorama of Paris, which Marie-Laure’s father makes for her in order to help her easily navigate the city.

However, fans should be warned that there were some significant changes in the adaptation process. The director of the series, Levy, told Entertainment Weekly that he and Doerr decided to cut some of the more “bleak” elements, while also adding a few characters.

“We created a few characters, specifically a few German characters, in order to manifest the evil of the Nazi party, the threat of war, and the encroaching threat on Marie being found in her hiding place,” Levy said. “So, we created a few new characters, and Anthony, the novelist, found it really effective, I'm happy to say.”

The Free Guy director added: “I wanted to end with a promise of hope, and there were some bleak, deeply upsetting scenes late in the book that we didn't include in the show.”

(Don't worry, we won't spoil the ending here.)

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Associate Editor, News and Entertainment

Joel is the Associate Editor for News & Entertainment and has been reporting on all things pop culture for over 5 years. Before working at PureWow, he served as a Features...