"Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" by Jonathan Safran Foer
So I had to read this for my university course about "Literary and Cultural Studies". That was the reason for me to chose this particular class (it's an 8am class, guys!!!); because I expected this book and the discussion about it to be good. Then my teacher turned out to be not so good but I still had this book to look forward to. I do not want to spoil anything for you, so we'll just get into a summary before anything else.
The story consists of two parts which are intertwined. On one hand it tells about little 9-year old Oskar Schell who has lost his father in 9/11. He finds an envelope with a key and the word "Black" written on it which sends him on a hunt through all of New York just to find the fitting lock for that key. The other part mentioned is about his grandparents, how they met and what they endured years before in the bombing of Dresden.
The cover I own, I find very pretty. It's simple and has got nothing to do with the story, but the way the title is composed all over the page, it's interesting and pretty. It would have gotten me to buy it or get it from the library if I didn't have to buy it anyway.
This book has also been made into a movie of the same name, which is on Netflix (at least in Germany and the US). Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock and more are to be seen in it.
Which gets us to my review...
I absolutely hated it. Let's start with the good points though. What I liked were the pages with the pictures and other visual elements (pages just filled with numbers or the lines merging together). On one hand I liked them because they meant I had to read fewer pages and on the other they were interesting (more than the story itself). I think the thought behind them was to include a clever mix of different media to show how 'different' and 'special' Oskar's way of thinking was.
The other thing I liked was the switch of perspective and the different kind of portraying those perspectives. Oskar's story was told like a report of events, like he is talking to the reader and telling him what he experienced. The grandparent's tell their stories in letters, which I liked better because it built up more of a personal connection, or at least proposed the opportunity for it.
Sadly, there wasn't more I could possibly talk positively about this book. Let's get to the real talk.
The character of Oskar was absolutely pretentious. He is supposed to be a 9-year old kid and I accept that he is probably autistic and just has a different way of thinking (which is supposed to be really adult-y and extraordinary) but he didn't seem authentic at all. I hated him, I found him to be so annoying. I just couldn't stand it. On top of that, his mother allowed him to run around New York all on his own and she didn't seem to care at all. That just adds to this inauthentic feeling I got.
I did like the grandparents better, but just in comparison to Oskar. In general I found them kind of lacking that special something.
Next up would be the plot in general. It just didn't go anywhere. The author built up this beginning with the search for that lock but the conclusion of that was simply unsatisfying and stupid. There wasn't much more to the plot than that. No character development either. Just a very flat and non-suspenseful story.
Maybe my opinion stems from my dislike for Foer's writing. It's really pretentious and tries so hard to be deep and meaningful, probably to grab all of those prizes that he got (which I can't understand at all, to be honest!). Some pages just recite encyclopedia entries, simply to fill the pages and probably to show how deep and smart Oskar is thinking.
The last point I'm getting to is the fact that the book is advertised with being about the happenings of 9/11 or at least dealing with it. In truth, it doesn't really. Yes, Oskar's father died on 9/11 but Oskar does not really deal with his problems concerning his death, he only uses his father's tragic death as an excuse to be the way he is and to treat his mother badly.
All in all, one could say that I hated this book a lot, because of the writing, the boring plot and the inauthentic and badly composed characters. Since I want my ratings to be more precise I decided to do it from a scale from 1 to 10 and this book gets exactly 1 'heart' from me. I only finished it because I had to for university.
So I didn't enjoy it at all and wouldn't recommend it. And if you ever have the decision between a class reading this book and another class, chose the other one!!!
With that I leave you to enjoy my first ever review on this blog. Here's to hopefully many more of them.
- xoxo Lisa