Friday, 24 September 2010

Book #62

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

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 discovers 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.

Extremely Sad and Incredibly Beautiful. I really, really loved this book. It's absolutely one that I'm going to start recommending to everyone I speak to. I think it's a very brave subject for Foer to have tackled, but I am certainly glad he did. He's done it in a gorgeous way, and it's one that will most definitely stick with me for a good while yet.

Oskar's journey throughout these pages is truly wonderful. He goes through a terrible bereavement process, makes the mistake of bottling up secrets, but in doing so embarks on a long quest. He doesn't do this for the end result, but to feel somehow closer to his father by doing it in his honour. His grieving methods and the fact that he was grieving in the first place really broke my heart.

I have already picked up some of Oskar's sayings and have begun to incorporate them into my daily vocabulary without really realising. He says he has "heavy boots" if he's feeling sad, and when he's talking about something quite academic or above his assumed level of intelligence, he talks about the subject, then adds, "which I know about". He is so gorgeous to me.

The narration skipped in places from Oskar, to his paternal grandparents. The typography changes with each of the narrators, which is something I typically enjoy. These changes show personality and at times the mental state of the narrator. The part I enjoyed most was where Oskar's grandfather was writing his story and was running out of space quickly in his notebook. He had to write smaller, and put his words more closely together. Quite soon, all of the words were on top of each other, and all I was left with was a page of illegible black ink.

I also liked how the story slowly came together. Although I felt the twist was slightly disappointing for Oskar, I had had a slight niggling feeling that perhaps Foer would end the novel in more of a trite manner. I was wrong, and I'm glad I was in this instance.

The climax of the book moved me more than I ever could have expected. It was written in such an identifiable way, and because I had already fallen in love with everyone in the novel (even Stan the doorman, and Gerald the limousine driver), I found myself to be wearing very, very heavy boots. I'm not ashamed to say that I cried big tears, because I think it's a wonderful thing when a writer can evoke such emotion in a person.

I'd love for everyone to have read this book. It's exactly what it says on the cover - extremely loud and incredibly close.

62 / 66 books. 94% done!


Frugal Pony said...

Wow it sounds fantastic, definitely going to pick it up when I see it! x

Infinitely Autumn said...

I'm so glad I found your blog. I have this book sitting on my bookshelf and haven't gotten to it yet, but this review makes me want to read it right away!

Frugal Pony said...

I read this the other week and you've nailed it here in your review - it's gorgeous. Oskar is wonderful and God knows what the film adaptation will be like because the complexities of Foer's writing (as always) make it too much for a Hollywood film to capture easily imo. I loved all the pictures and the bit you mentioned where the grandpa runs out of space to write his story but has to keep on writing. Books don't often make me cry but this one did as he slowly came to terms with everything and little memories of 9/11 are built up to tell Oskar's story. Such a great book.