Saturday, 18 February 2012

Book Review: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Jonathan Safran Foer's novel is a story of 9-year old Oskar Schel.  It is set 2 years after the attacks on the Twin Towers on 9/11 in which Oskar's father Thomas dies.

Already a complicated and precocious kid, Oskar's life was turned upside down on that day with the loss of his Dad.  But one day 2 years later he finds a key belonging to his father in an envelope with the word "Black" written on it.  So Oskar begins a journey to find the lock that this key belongs to by hunting down everyone in New York with the surname Black in the hope of getting closer to his father and help him finally come to terms with his death.  The journey takes him all over New York where he meets many people.  He also meets The Renter, who is staying with his Grandmother, a mysterious old man who cannot speak.

I won't give away anything as to what happens with the key, the many "Blacks" or The Renter.
What I will say though is that this book is very well written.  I was immediately drawn in by Oskar and his world.  A complicated, charming, funny and very sad little boy trying to come to terms with his father's death and life in general.  I thought I may tire of a narration by someone so young but never did.

The writing is very funny and inventive and Oskar himself is easy to like and sympathise with.  I may start using the term "heavy boots" myself if I'm ever sad.  "The events of today gave me heavy boots".
This isn't a book about 9/11 itself, more about how people and families cope with death and disaster and the loss of a father or a husband.

Apparently there has been some controversy around this book as parts of the ending does intimate that Thomas may have been one of the "jumpers" from the Twin Towers, a part of 9/11 that Americans are still finding it hard to come to terms with, although this is never revealed and only ever one possibility.

I really enjoyed this story and would recommend it to anyone, with the caveat that you should be prepared to be upset at many points.  A good book should draw you in, make you believe and care about the characters, make you laugh, think and cry.  Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close does this in abundance.

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