Everything Is Illuminated, Jonathan Safran Foer
There seems to be a massive cult following of this book in America, which I don’t think has transferred here to the same degree, but I would call this a modern classic in the making. Everything Is Illuminated is a very self conscious novel, but its self awareness works. What I love about the book is that whilst being comical and at times confusing, it is actually a very intelligent comment on the importance of personal history, and the undercurrents of life being love and sadness. It was unexpectedly very appropriate to read after Proust as a lot of the themes were similar.
I must confess I found Alex very irritating, but I didn’t think the book suffered for it. I loved Foer’s self characterisations too – it gave the impression that he’s a good sport in real life! My favourite parts of the novel by far were the historical stories of Trachimbrod. I am always drawn to books that cover the second world war through family history; this one was at times enigmatic, but very well written. As I was reading, I got the feeling that I was collecting beautiful phrases, like little trinkets. It is a very visual novel, so I’d be quite intrigued to see the film. I’m now not sure what I was expecting this to be, but what it is isn’t what I thought. In a good way.
I would recommend this, if only to hear more opinions on it as everybody’s reaction to this book seems really personal. A friend has lent me her copy of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and I have completely fallen in love with the ideas behind A Convergence of Birds, so expect to see reviews of those in the future.