With nearly 2 Million reviews on Goodreads, All the Light We Cannot See has a 4.3 out of 5 stars rating. It’s a book loved by many. Therefore, many people, myself included, anxiously wanted to see how Netflix, Steven Knight, and Shawn Levy would bring this popular book to the screen. It was one of the most anticipated book-to-screen adaptations.
It was a mystery how faithful the All the Light We Cannot See production team would remain to the source material. With only four hours to tell an over 500-page story, I expected many changes. My expectations were right. All the Light We Cannot See TV show is very different from the book, both in small and major ways. However, the big changes are what separate it so much from the book.
Let’s talk about these major changes.
Warning All the Light We Cannot See book and miniseries spoilers ahead. Proceed with caution.
Werner Isn’t As Victimized In The Book
Werner (Louis Hofmann) is a sympathetic character in both the book and the series. However, he’s not without flaws. In the book, he sits idly by on a few occasions while bad things happen around him. This especially comes across with his friend Frederick. Frederick is mercilessly bullied in the school and dubbed as weak. He’s abused so much that he suffers brain damage.
Some of the things that happen to Werner in the show, happen to Frederick, such as the chase scene, but in a different way. Additionally, the show makes it seem like Werner has no free will. He doesn’t have much of a say in his life but he chooses to attend the school on his own. He also isn’t dragged to Marie-Laurie (Aria Mia Loberti) and told to kill her. He’s a victim of the system, lacks real agency, and is vulnerable due to his circumstances but he isn’t completely terrorized in the book as shown in the show.
There Are Three Fake Sea Of Flames Diamonds In The Book
In the book, von Rumpel (Lars Eidinger) doesn’t initially know who has the Sea of Flames diamond. He just knows that four possible people have it. Three possess fake diamonds and one holds the real one. It isn’t until he tracks down all the fakes that he figures out Daniel (Mark Ruffalo) has the real diamond.
In the show, von Rumpel discovers early that Daniel possesses it and makes it his mission to find him. Additionally, book Daniel isn’t initially sure if he has the fake or real one. The show changes this element by also having Daniel give various diamonds to others, but he always knows that he has the most valuable one.
Etienne Is Only The Professor In The All The Light We Cannot See Limited Series
Etienne (Hugh Laurie) turns out to be the Professor whom both Marie-Laure and Werner listened to as children. However, in the All the Light We Cannot See book, it’s a little more complicated. Etienne is the one broadcasting these lessons but it’s from old recordings of his brother. His brother died in the war and he plays the recordings as a way to honor him.
Marie-Laure only learns her familial connection to the Professor after Etienne tells her. Unlike in the show, she doesn't realize it on her own.
Etienne And Madame Manec Are Only Siblings In The Netflix Series
Etienne’s brother doesn’t exist in the Netflix limited series. He’s one of the names missing from the All the Light We Cannot See cast. Instead, Madame Manec (Marion Bailey) is his only known sibling. In the book All the Light We Cannot See, Madame Manec is the housekeeper and close friend of Etienne.
Likely this change happened so that her inevitable death packs a more emotional punch for the viewers and Etienne. The show isn’t one of Netflix’s saddest offerings but it contains plenty of heartbreaking moments. Madame Manec's death is one of them.
Marie-Laure Never Finds Out What Happened To Her Father In The Book
Daniel is arrested in the book and we read about some of his time in prison. We also get to read the letters he sends to Marie-Laure. However, his whereabouts are eventually unknown. Four years after his disappearance, when the war ends, Marie-Laure only hears that he got influenza while locked up. It’s presumed that he died in prison.
In the series, he dies a hero by being tortured to death to protect Marie-Laure. His actual death in the book may not have been as dramatic but just as sad.
Marie-Laure Doesn’t Kill Von Rumpel In The Book
In All the Light We Cannot See, Werner makes his way to Marie-Laure to save her. He encounters von Rumpel and kills him. Before his death, von Rumpel breaks into Marie-Laure’s home and she hides away for several days. Werner hears her pleas for help from the radio and goes to save her.
The Netflix series makes von Rumpel’s death much more cinematic. He dies from a combined effort from Werner and Marie-Laure. However, Marie-Laure gets the final shot that kills him. It’s her female badass action-hero moment.
Etienne Only Dies In The Series
Etienne is one of the few characters still alive by the end of the All the Light We Cannot See book. However, he dies in the series. In many ways, his life is sacrificed in the show so that Werner gets a chance to live.
This happens both in an actual way and in a storytelling way. Book fans know that Werner dies and Etienne lives in the book, but the show swaps their fates.
Werner And Marie-Laure Only Kiss In The All The Light We Cannot See Series
Werner And Marie-Laure only spend a day together in the book, but it’s implied that Werner has fallen in love with her. It likely happens even before they meet, through hearing her on the radio. Werner ponders what could have been with them, but they never engage in romance.
One of the last moments of the All the Light We Cannot See Netflix series involves them dancing and kissing. They get a more romantic final day together than in the book. Additionally, it’s also implied that they may find their way back to each other.
Werner Dies In The Book
The book eliminates any possibility of Werner and Marie-Laure meeting again because he dies. He’s captured after they separate. Then he gets sick and finally, in a delirium, wanders off and steps on a landmine and dies.
Werner’s death seems inevitable but goes back to the book’s themes of senseless victims. The show takes a more hopeful approach by allowing Werner to live and potentially make it back to his sister Jutta (Luna Wedler) and potentially Marie-Laure.
The Book Flashes Forward To The Future
The series ends with Marie-Laure saying goodbye to Werner then putting the diamond in the sea and positioned toward the sea. The book ends by showing a few different years set many years after the war.
Jutta, Marie-Laure, and Volkheimer (who briefly exist in the show) interact as Werner’s belongings make their way back to them. There is also a final moment with Frederick.
These chapters serve as a way to honor Werner and highlight what happened to the surviving characters. We learn that Marie-Laure is not married but has a daughter she loves and is successful in her career. She lives much longer than the war.
The final pages offer some closure after all the trauma in All the Light We Cannot See.
All the Light We Cannot See is one of the new Netflix shows that fans of the book have been extremely excited to watch. The many changes put the show and book in different worlds, but they’re fascinating to examine together. All the Light We Cannot See is the best Netflix TV show to watch right now.