Everything is Illuminated (by Jonathan Safran Foer)
Ok, first a couple of points: I think that Jonathan Safran Foer is a brilliant writer. I really do. I loved his latest book ‘Here I am’ and also ‘Extremely loud and incredibly close’ is one on my favourites… He has a fabulous subtle, self deprecating sense of humour that really makes me chuckle and he’s supremely clever.
His talk at the Cheltenham Festival of Literature a couple of years ago was really good and he’d have a place in my ideal dinner party table. I’d love to sit him opposite Stephen Fry… what a combo that would be…
Having said all that… I really struggled with this book… really struggled, to the point that I would go as far as saying that if I’d read this one first I wouldn’t have been interested in reading any of his other books, which would have been a huge loss.
The book is split into two parts alternating each other, in real time the young author visit Ukraine in search of the woman who helped his grandfather escape the Nazis. The story is told in the most hilarious broken English by the Ukrainian guide Sasha/Alex. Brilliantly written and very funny; cultural differences, bad English… all adds up to form a very very clever written piece. So far so good… The other part, written by the author is supposed to be the story of the Jewish settlement where his grandfather came from, but it’s a completely surreal, non linear (nothing wrong with that), part history, part allegory, part philosophical attempt to I’m not sure what… to explain something about history? to make up something that nobody knows about? And it drove me insane.
I really really struggled. I got annoyed and a few times I closed it in anger swearing not to finish it. I did finish it but more out of stubbornness than anything else. It felt ‘too clever’… like a classic first book when you feel the author wants to show everything he knows at once…
Perhaps though, it’s my fault I didn’t get it, yes, it has moments of genius but… not enough for me. Maybe I read it at the wrong time in my life, it can happen… but still…. not my jam.
Good luck with that.
Let me know what you think.
2017 – Magari domain resto (Lorenzo Maroni)
2016 – Upstream (Mary Oliver)
2015 – La tentazione di essere felici
2014 – Storia della bambina perduta (Elena Ferrante)
2013 – Careless people (Sarah Churchwell)
2012 – Wonder
2011 – The Paris Wife (Paula McLain)
2010 – Salar the Salmon (Henry Williamson)
2009 – Let the gread world spin (Colum McCann)
2008 – The White Tiger (Aravind Adiga)
2007 – Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (Barbara Kingsolver)
2005 – Never let me go (Kazuo Ishiguro)
2004 – The Sunday Philosophy Club (Alexander McCall Smith)
2002 – Everything is illuminated (Jonathan Safran Foer)
2001 – American Gods (Nail Gainmand)
2000 – Coram Boy (Jamila Gavin)
1997 – Paradise (Toni Morrison)
1991- Regeneration (Pat Barker)
1989 – The Joy luck club (Amy Tan)
1987 – Norwegian Wood (Haruki Murakami)
1985 – Always Coming Home (Ursula Le Guin)
1981 – The colour purple (Alice Walker)
1979 – Sophie’s Choice (William Styron)
1978 – Beauty: a retelling of the story of Beauty and the Beast (R McGinley
1977 – A morbid taste for Bones (Ellis Peters)