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97 of 104 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A staggering work of genius...
Oskar is a nine year old living in New York, who lost his Father in 9/11. Whilst he is going through his things he accidently smashes a vase and comes across a key. Oskar is sure that the key belonged to his father and so attempts to search for which of the 162 million locks in New York it might open, in an attempt to make sense of the tragedy and keep something of his...
Published on 6 Sep 2006 by Sarah Durston

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Extremely Stupid & Incredibly Silly
This is not only the strangest piece of fiction I have ever read, it is one of the worst. The problems begin with the nine-year-old narrator, Oskar Schell. Why writers feel they can successfully re-enter the world of a pre-pubescent boy and adequately reflect their mindset is something that I find utterly baffling. Without exception, they transpose adult thinking into a...
Published 4 months ago by Alexander


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97 of 104 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A staggering work of genius..., 6 Sep 2006
By 
Sarah Durston (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Paperback)
Oskar is a nine year old living in New York, who lost his Father in 9/11. Whilst he is going through his things he accidently smashes a vase and comes across a key. Oskar is sure that the key belonged to his father and so attempts to search for which of the 162 million locks in New York it might open, in an attempt to make sense of the tragedy and keep something of his Father alive.

A parrallel narrative involves Oskar's grandparents, their relationship and the similarity between the Dresden bombings (which they witnessed) and 9/11.

I have to say that I approached this novel with some trepidation, fearing an overly sentimental or schmaltzy examination of 9/11, but I needn't have worried. With the exception of 'If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things' by Jon McGregor, this novel would have to be as close to perfection as I have ever read.

The writing is moving and poetic, with plenty of word-play. It's challenging and funny without ever taking the obvious and tested methods. I would have to say that the writing might not be to everyone's taste, there is plenty of mulling over and description, but for me this just added to the experience.

I loved Oskar and although it is hard to believe that a nine year old would be so accomplished it isn't impossible. There are many explorations in this novel of how people attempt to cope with or make sense of loss. I found the grandfather's story the most moving...to leave an unborn child becasue you can't cope with the thought that one day you may lose it.

I cried through large chunks of this book, and even though it could have been my hormones, it might be one to avoid if you have recently suffered bereavement or if you're going through a rough patch.

I'd give it six stars if I could. Remarkable.
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40 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars witty, insightful and incredibly sad, 10 Sep 2006
By 
Mike J. Wheeler (Kingswinford, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Paperback)
Having really enjoyed 'Everything is Illuminated' I approached this with caution. I was prepared to be disappointed by 'second book syndrome'. However, having read this it seems that Jonathan Safran Foer is a real talent and not a one book wonder. This is modern literature at its best. The book is witty, insightful and incredibly sad.

Like 'Everything is Illuminated' this is a book written from several viewpoints. We have the story of Oskar whose father was a victim of 9/11 searching New York a lock to fit a key he finds in a vase belonging to his father. This is probably the best part of the book and provides its meat. Oskar is 9 years old and has about every hang up you can imagine. In some ways this part of the book reminds me of 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime' though its never stated that the boy has Asperger's syndrome. Oskar is however obsessive and seems to veer strongly towards an autistic personality.

The second and third parts of the book are more in the magical realist style that Foer used for the story of the shtetl in 'Everything is Illuminated'. It follows the relationship between Oskar's Grandmother and Grandfather who is literally dumb and has to communicate by writing. The relationship begins in Dresden immediately prior to the bombing in 1945 and through this provides a sympathetic analogy to the loss of Oskar's father and of course his Grandmother's son in 9/11.

This is a huge achievement considering that 9/11 is still so fresh in everybody's mind. Brave writing that deserves to be read.
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pretentiousness aside - this is masterful, 14 Jun 2005
By A Customer
Unlike the other reviews I didn't find this book confusing, though at times I was frustrated by it. I found the characterisation to be superb and over-shadowed the pseudo-stylistics of the book; which on the whole was incredibly engrossing. The story is subtle, as is the humour which manages to be moving at the same time. On one level the book is about one boy's personal journey to find peace, yet on another it is a covert social commentary - embodying all of the fear of post 9/11 America without ever overtly explaining anything about the incident. You will either love or hate the author's style. I for one found it frustrating at times when I would've preferred continuous prose, but that is not what the book is about. With private letters from two main characters to their son and grandson and the surreal thoughts and feelings of Oskar Schell (probably the most interesting character created in contemporary fiction), a 9 year old who has lost his father in the September 11th attacks, "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" manages to move you without being overly sentimental, amuse you without trying and entertain you as it takes in over 60 years of history without ever explaining the facts. It is neither pushy nor patronising and is wholly original in concept. Very impressive stuff.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Extremely close, 25 Mar 2007
By 
E. A Solinas "ea_solinas" (MD USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Paperback)
Sometimes an author has a theme running through all of his writing -- in the case of Jonathan Safran Foer, it seems to be a quest of the soul. His follow-up to the cult hit "Everything Is Illuminated" is the poignant, quirky, tender "Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close," which takes readers back to the rubble of ground zero.

Oskar Schell is a precocious preteen, who has been left depressed and traumatized. His father died in the September 11 attacks, leaving behind a mysterious key in an envelope with the word "Black" on it. So with the loyalty and passion that only a kid can muster, he begins to explore New York in search of that lock.

As Oskar explores Manhatten, Foer also reaches throughout history to other horrific attacks that shattered people's lives, including his traumatized grandparents. Though the book is sprinkled with letters and stories from before Oskar's time, the boy's quest is the center of the book. And when he finally finds where the key belongs, he will find out a little something about human nature as well...

Historically, only a short time has passed since 9/11, and in some ways "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" reopens the wounds. It reminds me of all the families who lost fathers, mothers and children. But Foer doesn't use cheap sentimentalism to draw in his readers, nor does he exploit the losses of September 11th families. It takes guts to write a book like this, and skill to do it well.

In some ways, this book is much like Foer's first novel, but he deftly avoids retreading old ground -- the "quest" is vastly different, the young protagonist is very different, and the conflicts and loss are different, though no less hard-hitting. Foer also sticks to that wonderfully oddballish prose, which gives a gloss of lightness to a deep plot.

After all, that is what made his first book so appealing -- there are parts of "Extremely" that are laugh-out-loud funny, and quirky characters worthy of a Wes Anderson movie. For example, one scene has Oskar sending a letter to Stephen Hawking, asking, "Can I please be your protégé?"

Child genius Oskar will probably make you want to either smack or hug him -- I tended more towards hugs. That's because Foer doesn't make Oskar seem like a tiny adult -- he's brilliant, but his mind still has the whimsy of a child's mind. His little "inventions" are just the sort of thing you'd expect an imaginative nine-year-old to create, and his quest is a realistic one, considering the tragedy he had suffered.

"Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" proves that Jonathan Safran Foer was no one-hit wonder. His enchanting second book tackles a great tragedy with warmth, depth and sensitivity. Outstanding.
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40 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Heartbreak of Loving in a Dangerous World, 3 Jun 2006
By 
J. E. Riddell (N.Ireland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Paperback)
Can love bear all things? Can it believe all things? Is there still room for hope in a world where we see only despair and man's inhumanity to man? Do we have the courage to love knowing the pain of loss? In a chokingly heartbreaking tale which interweaves narratives from different generations of a family ripped open by events so harrowing that they, in one generation, literally take one's voice away, a nine year old boy searches for a lock through which some answers might lie, to help him keep close to a Father taken from him in 9/11.

This book is so utterly convincing that I sobbed through most of its 300 plus pages. If you mix 'The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas' with 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time' and then throw in something like 'Birdsong', you might end up with a book like this. It's the best book I've read all year. Please, please read it.

J E Riddell
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, 14 April 2011
I'm not very good at reviewing books but feel I have write about "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" by Jonathan Safran Foer. This is not a new book, and there is every chance you have already read it, but if you have not I really recommend that you do.

My partner read the book before me, and asked me to put down the book I was reading (a gift from him) and read it as soon as I could as he wanted to speak with me about it.

The book is immediately gripping. Large sections are narrated by a precocious young boy called Oskar Schell. His voice is immediate and captivating, his story is heartbreaking. Safran Foer goes on to use other voices and to tell other parts of the story, whicn weave into a tale of such sadness that it left me feeling profoundly moved by how much I have.

I had previously read "Everything is Illuminated" by Safran Foer and found large parts of the book distasteful, uncomfortable and irrelevant. There were some elements of that to this novel too, in my opinion, but the focus is far more on something that has a raw power to it.

I really recommend that you read it this book, and that you finish it with someone around to hold you or hug you at the end. You will need it.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brave and bold experimental approach that worked for me, 6 Jan 2008
By 
Andy Miller (Nottingham, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Paperback)
Oskar is nine years old, living in a New York apartment and coping with the death of his father a couple of years earlier in the Twin Towers. Foer gives voice to this questing, energetic little boy in a prose style that crackles and soars and in doing so reflects Oskar's imaginative interior dialogues. Coming relatively early (2005) in the novelistic response to 9/11, this book sets itself dangerous challenges in the person of its protagonist and its form of execution.

In some respects, I was reminded of the protagonist in Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time - in the combination of intellectual precocity and social naivety. But Foer sets this story against a larger historical backdrop and within a more detailed and universal emotional landscape.

The book plays with various novelistic conventions by including photographs, diagrams and, in one heart rending section, as the story becomes more and more intense, the line spacing decreases until the words are increasingly superimposed on the previous ones and, for three more pages, the image darkens with the feelings. I am not always persuaded by the benefits of such experimental techniques, but in this case this, and the use of similarly unconventional devices, seems such an original and forceful use of form and completely suited to the communicative task the author has set himself.

The prose is a joy to read and, despite the tragic events with which it deals, there are many intensely funny moments. I read recently that, instead of the quiet calm of an author's studio, Foer chooses to write in one of New York's biggest public libraries where other `readers' chat, text, flirt and hang out. The voice of the city, the vibrancy of its life, and the huge wound of its recent tragedy, all grab and shake you as you read this wonderful book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartwarming, horrific and beautiful, 28 May 2014
By 
Celeste (Bedfordshire UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Paperback)
A beautiful, horrifying, human story that shows how loss of a true loved one can totally tear lives apart but by searching for closure you can enlighten so many other lives. Oskar and his family have had to deal with the worst type of heartbreak after the death of Oskars Father, this is a journey for the whole of his family to come to terms with and how they all attempt to move forward in their own lives.

I must say I am confused by the 1 and 2 star reviews. We are not discussing a 'normal' 9 year old boy, I didn't think it was really necessary to write ''Oskar is autistic'' for readers to understand why this boy and his paternal family are different but I guess that Mr Safran Foer needed to make that clearer. Also a comment made about racism is crazy, 9/11 was a deed done by a group of fanatical terrorists and at no point does the author point the finger at any religious group. Equally as I flicked through the final few pages I guessed that a number of readers would think it crass to write about this disaster but then you can't ignore world events because they were horrific. How many novels and films came directly after WWII, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan war to name a tiny proportion of wars and horrific events to be portrayed on film and in books. War and terror is unfortunately part of life but this book is not actually dwelling on that side of it but the aftermath of how these tragedies effect the survivors. It is the human factor the story is discussing. Without the stories, documentaries and records of these events how will we as the human race remember and learn. Surely forgetting these events is the crime, not the recording of them.

The writing style was easy to read even though there were no paragraphs, which would normally frustrate but Safran Foer writes with a flow that pulls you through the pages with ease. The addition of photos and one sentence pages mad the book all the more interesting and unique.

Having the story connecting the family from the Dresden bombings through to the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy showed that unfortunately the world has not moved on but that life has to, even when the ones you have lost are the most important.

This story made me thankful, for everyone and everything I love. It made me glad to be alive and appreciate what I have. If a book can make me feel that way then it can, in my view be nothing short of a wonderful read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Extremely Stupid & Incredibly Silly, 14 May 2014
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This review is from: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Paperback)
This is not only the strangest piece of fiction I have ever read, it is one of the worst. The problems begin with the nine-year-old narrator, Oskar Schell. Why writers feel they can successfully re-enter the world of a pre-pubescent boy and adequately reflect their mindset is something that I find utterly baffling. Without exception, they transpose adult thinking into a child's brain and believe that by implying we are dealing with a near-genius, this will somehow make the character more plausible. It doesn't and it can't. This amazing child, who corresponds with Stephen Hawking and takes part in a school production of "Hamlet", and who knows that epidemiologists study diseases, has never even heard of Winston Churchill or Marilyn Monroe, poses as his own mother and addresses his married French teacher as "Mademoiselle" instead of "Madame".Most weird and unfathomable of all, his imagination leads him to fantasise on page 235 about his own grandmother: "She'd been raped and murdered." I very much doubt that a nine-year-old can be fully aware of what a rape is, still less capable of imagining such untold violence being done to a female member of his family. On page 97, when told that a woman is 48, he says "You look much younger than that." Young minds do not work in this way. Put simply, anybody over the age of 20 is "old" and the distinctions in age that we adults later uncover are simply a blur to such young minds. The book is riddled with such examples of inconsequentiality and implausibility.
The first few chapters are full of what I have to call verbal diarrhoea. Good writers know how to convey character, mood and atmosphere through sparing and controlled dialogue. Jonathan Safran Foer believes he has to write down every single utterance, without having the depth of insight or poetic imagination to carry the reader along. This is more than just tedious, it is utterly stultifying. Chapters that are stuffed full of such garbage expose a fatal flaw in the overall conception: Oskar is totally unmemorable and so are the other characters. At no stage of this book were my emotions positively engaged.
The novelty factor of so many pages that consist of pictures, words encircled in red, typographical experiments, single sentences and even virgin space quickly wears off when the reader realises how thin the plot is. Basically, a boy finds a key and wants to know what he can unlock with it. He spends some 300 pages visiting people in New York who all have the same family name. In the process a lot of unresolved family history is regurgitated.
It beggars belief that a publishing house actually thought there was sufficient literary merit to want to put this on the market.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Contrived, 3 Mar 2012
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Book in excellent condition and arrived promptly. Read the book for my book group. Felt the book was about being 'lost'. Whilst I thought it interesting in parts and enjoyed the parallels, I did feel it was contrived. The style of narrative wasn't always clear as to which character was speaking. It was also far too gimmicky and made it harder to follow as it didn't flow. Think the author was trying to be too clever. It doesn't inspire me to want to read another novel by him.
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Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer (Paperback - 25 May 2006)
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