Madame Manec In Netflix’s ‘All the Light We Cannot See,’ Explained: Is Her Character Different From The Book?

All the Light We Cannot See is a story of the fight against oppression and resistance against unlawful activities. This Anthony Doerr book, which has recently been made into a Netflix mini-series, talks about everything that happened in Germany and Nazi-occupied France. The Netflix series went off track from the source material, but all the characters have been retained with changes given to their personalities.

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One of the many characters in the show and in the book who have created a resistance force against the German army has to be Uncle Etienne. He tried to broadcast information about scientific and geographical topics to the younger generation. Since he was a veteran of the First World War, he was aware how unnecessary that conflict was.

Uncle Etienne understood the games political powers played to get people on their side. His job was to inform the younger generation through radio about a kind of life they could lead away from their homeland. Etienne’s act of resistance worked because Werner and Marie, as young kids, were able to tune into the frequency to learn and educate themselves. Werner’s picking up this frequency in Germany was illegal because, as per the law of the land, listening to foreign broadcasts was punishable by death. Werner was not worried about the consequences of his actions because he had inadvertently become a part of the resistance group. The mini-series showcased why Werner was not as driven as other SS soldiers. The rest of the resistance carried by various characters in the show is because of Uncle Etienne. 

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Madame Manec in the show is introduced as Uncle Etienne’s sister, who runs the household. Etienne spends most of his time in the attic with his radio, which is now used to gather messages and information from the British and American forces to weaken the German stronghold on the island of Saint-Malo. Madame Manec was a kind person who took in Marie from the first day and made sure the girl remained safe under her watch. Manec did not think twice before helping Marie around the house and getting accustomed to the fact that the girl is blind but resourceful. Madame Manec surprised everyone when she revealed her role in working against the occupying German forces on the island of Saint-Malo.

Madame Manec, in the book as well as in the television show, displayed great courage when she revealed her role in running a resistance group. It consisted of many ladies of Madame Manek’s age, and they built a large network of a secret rebellion group. The reason for them forming this discreet association is that no one expects elderly women to be capable of running a spy network. Madame Manec and many other members of the group went under the radar of German intelligence and the army. ‘The Old Ladies’ Resistance Club’ was tired of the German occupation of France. The women of the island made sure the German army was defeated. Madame Manec and her rebellion group were instrumental in sending secret coded messages throughout the city using the bread loaves, which could help them stay ahead of the occupying army. If they were caught, the repercussions would be unimaginable.

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Manec and the ladies of the group were initially excited about the work they did because it made them feel like young women. It is implied that younger women were always hired to be spies for honey-trapping targets. Nobody would contemplate an elderly lady being a spy because most of these plans are hatched by men, and they refuse to think beyond seduction as the art of extracting information. The fact that they could run a spy network on a tiny island is an achievement.

Madame Manec also made Marie a part of the group when she realized no one would suspect a blind girl. The bakery was the nucleus of all the secret messages that were gathered; it was a smart way to navigate the operation. The German army never suspected anyone till their army fell. Madame Manec was a crucial part of this operation, where she eventually convinced Etienne to help with messages and deliver them. Etienne was consumed by his PTSD and refused to step outside of the house. Madame Manec painted him a picture of a free Saint-Malo. Encouraging words from Madame Manec and Marie pushed Etienne to come out of the house and help the resistance grow.

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Madame Manec was proud of Etienne for having taken a bold step in bringing down the German army. In the show, Madame Manec suffers from a chronic lung infection because of her age, and she succumbed to the smoke caused by a fire in the kitchen. Her death did not stop Marie and Etienne from carrying out the work started by the group. Both managed to deliver many secret coded messages to the bakery, and a constant back and forth went on on the island till the place was bombed by the American troops.

In the show, Reinhold was desperately looking for Marie. He had information about the young blind girl having the cursed diamond “Sea of Flames.” According to von Rumpel, as an army officer his job was to procure precious stones from around Europe for the government. He was seeking the “Sea of Flames” for his gain, but no one would help him locate Marie. The town’s unwillingness to help Von Rumpel is proof of most of them being part of the resistance group formed by Madame Manec and the ladies. The prostitute he approached was initially not keen on providing any information on the girl as well. The lady must have been associated with part of the rebellion group until she shared the intel for money and food.

Madame Manec’s resistance group is the reason why the British and American armies were able to push the Germans out of the island. Saint-Malo could have been a part of the wider D-Day operation. Their work was a success, even though the entire town was covered in rubble due to the constant bombing. Sadly, the whole of the village became collateral damage in a bid to remove the occupying forces from the island. The island was eventually freed, and Marie was able to live peacefully even though she had lost loved ones in the process.

Madame Manec was a brave person, and her death cannot be considered to have been in vain. In the book, Marie and Uncle Etienne survived the bombing and went on to live in Paris after the war was over. None of them would have shown the courage to step out of their comfort zone if not for Madame Manec.

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Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan is a cinema enthusiast, and a part time film blogger. An ex public relations executive, films has been a major part of her life since the day she watched The Godfather – Part 1. If you ask her, cinema is reality. Cinema is an escape route. Cinema is time traveling. Cinema is entertainment. Smriti enjoys reading about cinema, she loves to know about cinema and finding out trivia of films and television shows, and from time to time indulges in fan theories.

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