What "All the Light We Cannot See" on Netflix Can Be Compared to a Pulitzer Prize-Winning Novel

When Anthony Doerr's book "All the Light We Cannot See" was published in 2014, it unexpectedly became a breakthrough book of the year, winning the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, spending over 200 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, and selling more than 15 million copies worldwide. Nearly a decade later, Netflix has released a limited series of four episodes of the famous historical epic.

In Doerr's film "All the Light We Cannot See," the stories of a blind French girl named Marie-Laure Leblanc (portrayed by blind actress Aria Mia Loberti in the series) and a German orphan named Werner Pfennig (Louis Hofmann) intertwine as they navigate the horrors and destruction of World War II, unconsciously connected through a children's science radio program created by Marie-Laure's great-uncle Etienne (Hugh Laurie) and Werner's deceased grandfather Henri. The story zigzags through time, beginning on the cusp of France's liberation by the Allies in 1944 and revisiting scenes from Marie-Laure and Werner's childhoods.

Director Shawn Levy ("Free Guy," "Night at the Museum"), who produced and directed the series based on a screenplay by Steven Knight ("Peaky Blinders," "Locke"), told IndieWire that the limited series format seemed like the only way to capture Doerr's story on screen.

"My entire speech [to Doerr] was this: 'Don't try to squeeze your sprawling epic novel into two hours,'" he said. "Let's do this in a form that allows for longer storytelling and narrative. Let's do this at Netflix, where there are no limitations on runtime. There are no limitations on episode count. Let's do this story justice. Let's adapt it properly."

Read more: "All the Light We Cannot See" on Netflix Turns Pulitzer Prize-Winning Novel into a Cinematic Feast

What Happens in the Book "All the Light We Cannot See" In 1940, 12-year-old Marie-Laure and her father Daniel (played by Mark Ruffalo in the series) flee Nazi-occupied Paris to seek refuge in the French port city of Saint-Malo with Daniel's great-uncle Etienne, a World War I veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and his housekeeper Madame Manec (Marion Bailey). Unbeknownst to his daughter, Daniel carries with him the legendary and purportedly cursed diamond called the "Sea of Flames" from the Paris Museum of Natural History, where he works, in order to prevent it from falling into the hands of the Nazis.

At the same time, 14-year-old Werner, who has grown up listening to Etienne's radio program, is separated from his younger sister Jutta (Luna Wedler) and sent to an exclusive and brutal Nazi military school, the National Institute, after demonstrating an aptitude for engineering by repairing a Nazi official's radio receiver. At the age of 16, Werner is drafted into the German army and assigned to an operational unit tasked with locating and destroying anti-German radio transmissions—a job he excels at despite doing so reluctantly.