Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

This is one of my brother's favourite books, so it was read on his recommendation!

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
First published by Houghton Mifflin in 2005 (this edition by Penguin Books in 2006)

Description: (from Amazon.co.uk)

Nine-year-old Oskar Schell is an inventor, amateur entomologist, Francophile, letter writer, pacifist, natural historian, percussionist, romantic, Great Explorer, jeweller, detective, vegan, and collector of butterflies.
When his father is killed in the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Centre, Oskar sets out to solve the mystery of a key he disovers in his father's closet. It is a search which leads him into the lives of strangers, through the five boroughs of New York, into history, to the bombings of Dresden and Hiroshima, and on an inward journey which brings him ever closer to some kind of peace.

First of all, I have to say that this is a book that is written in a very original way. It's not just a straightforward narration by one person. It's a series of different narrations in many different ways: either by letters, or by thought, or by trying to listen in on a conversation through a closed door. I have never before in my reading life encountered a book written in this way. There are also may illustrations in the book, that mean something throughout the story.

I'd like to say here that I was initially reluctant to read this book because of the fact that it involves the 11th of September (or 9/11 as Americans call it). It's not that I was avoiding the subject or anything, I just thought it would be far too sad (and I don't like sad books). But I decided I must read it, just after my brother finished reading it for the second time.

From the first chapters I noticed something very weird. Well, maybe weird is not the word I am looking for, but I hope you get what I mean. Oskar is supposed to be a 9-year-old boy. But the way Safran Foer has made his speak (narrate) does not correspond to a normal 9-year-old. It's just not normal. And it's not the swear words (which I must confess, I don't think a child that is so young should be portrayed to know), it's the whole behaviour and way of thinking. You get used to it after a bit, but I didn't find it normal throughout the book...

All in all, I liked the book. I'm not going to say that it was one of the best books I have ever read in my life, because it was not. I have read better. Quite a lot of better books than this one. Here, I have to admit that the book did make me cry at the end. I just couldn't read the last pages... I don't even know why... Objectively speaking, it wasn't that sad, but the way than Safran Foer chose to end the book was quite touching.

Rating: 7/10 (I definitely recommend reading it, but the 7 out of 10 is given because of the 9-year-old thing I mentioned above)

Jonathan Safran Foer is an American author. He was born in Washington, D.C. and attended Princeton University, obtaining a degree in Philosophy in 1999. He is married to fellow author Nicole Krauss and they have two children. He grew up in a tight-knit Jewish family and is also an occasional vegetarian (meaning he is sometimes a vegetarian, sometimes a vegan and sometimes an omnivore). 
Up to date, he has written three novels: ''Everything is Illuminated'' (which I will probably be reading sometime during this year), ''Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close'' and, most lately, ''Tree of Codes''. He has also published one work of non-fiction, titled ''Eating Animals'', as well as a series of short stories.
Despite Safran Foer's success, he has been on the receiving end of much criticism, mainly due to the fact that he uses many modernist literary devices. (I don't think they should criticise him for something like that, though... Everyone has the right to write the way they like!)

Here are some links:

Counts as Book #12 in my 100 Books In A Year Challenge!

Whew... Two reviews in one day...! They were building up, so I had to get them out of the way!

Goodnight everyone!

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