Monday 11 November 2013

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - Jonathan Safran Foer

Title: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Author: Jonathan Safran Foer
Publication Date: April 4th, 2006
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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.


Don't expect a conventional formed novel. The book is long but there are images that add to the story, including one that really brings out strong emotions. There's also a couple of pages of just numbers that can be decoded via the keypad of a phone but I didn't get time to do that. What I liked the most though was the pages that had words written over words until the page went black with just the overlapping of writing.

The story is basically made up of he family's history weaved throughout Oskar's journey through unsent letters from Oskar's grandparents. His grandfather writes letters to his dad whilst his grandmother writes letters for him. If that makes sense. It does get a little confusing at first because there's really no indicator there's a shift in person but Froer's tone change is great that you pick up quite quickly. It is easy to telly he difference between Oskar and his grandfather although perhaps the voices between his grandmother and grandfather take a little more effort to tell apart.

In fact, Saffron portrayed the mind of a year 9 old exceptionally well. It's easy for a child to get lost in their thoughts and just talk about what's at the front of their mind, without really thinking. That's how Oskar in terms of his perspective. He retells moments with his dad but drops off and then picks up a little later. It's like a "keep you on edge" tactic, which does work - sorta.

I loved Oskar as a character. He was realistic and quite hilarious with his blunt attitude. Although at times I felt as though the things he did seemed a little far fetch for a 9 year old. Froer does try to rationalise it a little but at the same time I was like really. It didn't affect me a lot though. The minor characters really shone as well. Grandmother was a character that drew so much sympathy from me, whilst his grandfather just made me angry. He was pathetic and a coward.

Another thing that Froer did amazingly was convey the different ways a person grieves. It really did make me sad and yes, I did cry. I don't think I've ever cried reading that much and it was only one part. It carried such a sad tone for most of the novel but eventually it did lighten up and I liked how it ended.

I found that Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was an easy read because of how good it was. I was immersed as soon as it began. Warning: there are many moments where you will begin to tear up but because I ended up reading it on the train I had to hold it in. It's a lot more interesting than what I initially thought it would bring and I am so glad I did decide to read it. Not only was Oskar's journey amazing, the letters gave the novels more depth.

It's not so much about the characters or the event of 9/11, it's about the dynamics of a family and the impact a single person can give. Definitely a beautiful book.

Don't be intimidated by the size, seriously just read it.

Side note: I loved that whilst it was set after the events of 9/11, Froer avoided bringing in any of the controversial debates over race or politics.

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