Netflix's 'All the Light We Cannot See' Is Set During World War II — Is It a True Story?


Apr. 19 2023, Updated 4:06 p.m. ET

Aria Mia Loberti as Marie-Laure LeBlanc in 'All The Light We Cannot See'
Source: Netflix

Everyone is talking about Netflix's limited series All the Light We Cannot See. With a powerhouse cast including Mark Ruffalo and Hugh Laurie, the show has already garnered massive attention. The story follows a young blind French girl named Marie-Laure LeBlanc (Aria Mia Loberti) and a German soldier named Werner (Louis Hofmann) during World War II.

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Is All the Light We Cannot See based on a true story? Or is the show an original creation for Netflix? Keep reading for everything you need to know about All the Light We Cannot See and the inspirations behind the limited series.

Nell Sutton as young Marie-Laure LeBlanc with Mark Ruffalo as Daniel LeBlanc
Source: Netflix
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Is 'All the Light We Cannot See' based on a true story?

While All the Light We Cannot See is set during two time periods: 1934 in Paris and 1940 in the coastal town of Saint-Malo, France, following the German occupation of Paris during World War II. Despite the depiction of real-life events, All the Light We Cannot See is not based on a true story.

'All the Light We Cannot See' is a Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Anthony Doerr.

Author Anthony Doerr wrote All the Light We Cannot See over a ten-year period, but the initial idea for the novel was sparked by a 2004 train ride. According to NPR, during his train ride, Anthony witnessed a man having a telephone call become angry when the call cut out after the train entered a tunnel.

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Hugh Laurie as Etienne LeBlanc, reclusive WWI war veteran and Marie-Laure's great-uncle.
Source: Netflix

Anthony noted that many people forget the "miracle" of being able to talk to someone across the world, allowing him to conceptualize a story set in a time when that type of communication would be a novelty.

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Then, Anthony decided to set the novel in France during World War II after taking a tour in Saint-Malo. "...What compelled me so much was that in a decade of rebuilding, those kind of memories, that level of violence could be so written over that a foolish tourist like me couldn't necessarily even notice it. I thought that was dazzling."

 Louis Hofmann as Werner in 'All the Light We Cannot See.'
Source: Netflix
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He added, "And then secondly, this idea that there were all these still-untold stories tucked within the D-Day story. I feel like, here this was two months after D-Day and the Allies had penetrated almost halfway to Paris. And yet here was this citadel where Germans were still holding out."

The novel won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the 2015 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. It was also shortlisted for the National Book Award.

Then, in 2019, Netflix and 21 Laps Entertainment acquired the rights to turn the novel into a limited series, which will premiere on Netflix on Nov. 2, 2023.

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