Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Book Review: Everything is Illuminated

I recently heard of this book listening to Pop Culture Happy Hour on NPR; Linda Holmes was talking about it and I was intrigued and requested it from the library. Only once I received it did I realize it was over a decade old - but I hadn't read it so it was new to me!

Probably makes more sense to talk about what I didn't like about because there was only one thing about it that I didn't love - and that's the way the story is written. I've never liked the kind of novels that go back and forth from one point in time to a completely different point in time (ore more than one other period) and go back and forth. I know this is not an uncommon technique and in some cases it works better than others but as a general rule, I am not a fan - I have a hard time keeping track of it all!

That said, I found this book entertaining and while dubbed a work of fiction, if one were to reveal some time later that it was actually biographical (or autobiographical), it wouldn't surprise me.

I liked the story and the characters seemed very familiar, which I attribute to growing up in Brooklyn and before I left in 1997,  had been immersed in Eastern European culture simply because it was where I was. I suspect the fact that Foer was in his mid-twenties when he wrote this accounts for some of the tone (especially the comic relief) and while I would be curious what this book would have been had he been 10-20 years older when he wrote it, I don't have a problem with the end product.

For me, the most clever effect of the writing was being able to read about the Holocaust and still be able to laugh and not feel like a complete heal or disrespectful jerk. I attribute this mostly to the development of the characters who give voice to the story.

In the end, I found this book hard to put down and one of those reads that found myself slowing down as I was winding down only for the purpose of stretching it out so it didn't have to end. If you haven't yet read this one, I highly recommend it.

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