Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close Paperback – 25 May 2006
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"[A] dazzling literary high-wire act . . . brilliant . . . The payoff is extraordinary: a fearless, acrobatic, ultimately haunting effort to combine inspired mischief with a grasp of the unthinkable."
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.See all Product description
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This is a story of war, a story of starvation, a story of suffering, but above all a story of a family! A daughter's story of her family and her love for her father, for her mother and for her siblings.
I thank the author for reminding me how the people we love matter more than anything else.
I highly recommend this book!
It's harrowing in parts, grim in others and will raise a lump in the most hardened of throats. It also helped me understand the Khmer people a bit better whilst I was there.
If you've visited the country then you'll understand what I mean when I say they are kind, brilliant, sassy and generous but there's an underlying distrust and sadness too. It's said that the entire population suffers from PSTD, even those born after the Khmer Rouge. I can believe it. It started with the Khmer Rouge and the same rhetoric (that you will read in the book) is being spouted now by those battling to take control of Cambodia once again. The trials are still ongoing. The Government is still corrupt. It is far from over for Cambodia.
A must read for anyone visiting Cambodia. And for anyone else who wants to 'remember'.
Oskar is one of the most interesting and engaging protagonists I can think of. He is not merely a curiosity - this is a character we really get to know and understand throughout this work as he hunts for the lock that will fit the key he has found in his father's closet a year after his death.
There were many poignant moments in this book, and it played masterfully on the emotions. Nevertheless it was not a trite weepy about the murder of a boy's father, nor a jingoistic romp through some kind of patriotic fervour. Those elements were almost completely absent in this book, and instead we had a private search for hope, meaning and love.
Stylistically this book is very much in the "contemporary" genre. That is a genre I often disdain because so often the books seem to be all about the clever writing rather than the story. This book has all kinds of experimental aspects, but in this case I think they come off nicely.
For instance, all the speech is jumbled together in this book. The normal rule is to start a new speaker on a new paragraph, but that is ignored here and we have a conversation taking place all in the same paragraph. This was extremely confusing to read and slowed me down quite a bit. Nevertheless as the narrator's voice was 9 year old Oskar, I felt it kind of made the point. Here was a narrator that just did not think like a normal 9 year old boy.
However things were not perfect with this book. The main problem was the grandparent's reminiscences that were running parallel in the book. These slowed down the story, and I was inclined to speed read through some of this. It was clear that the author was juxtaposing two different dark events in the story, so I can see why he put it there. However I think he should take a clue from David Mitchell's remarkable ability to change voice in a story and written the grandparents story back in a more familiar style. By clustering all the dialogue on single paragraphs in those sections too, I felt the effect of that literary device was lost.
There was also more experimentation with use of pictures, and other segments. For best enjoyment, do not read this book on a kindle, where some sections are unreadable, and where you miss the effect of the colour pages. The ebook looks good on an iPad, albeit missing the flickbook section at the end of the paper copy. I ended up reading a mixture of ebook and paper copies of this work.
All in all though, this was a great work. It richly deserves to do well, and should be remembered for a long time for the wonderful characterisation of Oskar alone.
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