Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Illusion of Separateness by Simon Van Booy

Title: The Illusion of Separateness
Author: Simon Van Booy

Genre: Fiction (Historical / WWII / Contemporary / Family / Missing in Action / California / New York / Blindness / Vignettes)
Publisher/Publication Date: Harper (6/11/2013)
Source: TLC Book Tours

Rating: Loved, broken hearted love....
Did I finish?: I did, in one night!
One-sentence summary: Six people, seventy years, and one war that connects them.
Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction,

Do I like the cover?: Maybe? It reminds me of a Europa Edition which is fine, and it captures a sense of the novel. I think it's good it isn't a WWII-oriented cover...

I'm reminded of...: Lawrence Durrell, Jeanette Winterson

First line: The mere thought of him brought comfort.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy if you like poetic novels, World War II stories,

Why did I get this book?: I adored Simon Van Booy's novel Everything Beautiful Began After and am a devoted fangirl now

Review: In 2011, Van Booy took my heart, crushed it, reassembled it, and gifted it to me in a wrapping of gorgeous prose in the form of Everything Beautiful Began After. Unsurprisingly, Van Booy has done it again with this book.

Van Booy is a short story writer (Everything Beautiful Began After was his first novel), and this book straddles both forms. In a series of breathtaking vignettes, Van Booy fills out a larger story arc that comes clear as we read on. Opening in 2010, the vignettes flash between then and 1939, following six people or so from the battlefields of World War II through to a convalescent home in California, New York and Manchester.

Despite the brief sketches, the characters feel real, from the first page.  There's Mr. Hugo, a German soldier who was shot in the face, living now with the horror of who he was and what he'd done.  Martin, adopted at a young age, learns later the tragic partial history of his childhood.  John, an American soldier, thought to be dead by his wife and family back in the States, scrabbles to survive after being shot down in his plane.  Amelia, his blind granddaughter, is a museum curator who pieces together a story of the war and era in such an inventive, imaginative way I wished it was a real exhibit.

The pacing of the story is gentle, easy, inviting one to linger; but there's tension, too, in understanding how everyone is connected and when -- or if -- the characters will learn the truth of their 'illusion of separateness'. 

I just adore Van Booy's use of language, his turn of phrase, which is simply and poetic. Andre Dubus III blurbed his style as 'F. Scott Fitzgerald and Marguerite Duras' which is spot on -- punchy, sharp, achingly gorgeous.  (Apparently Van Booy writes fully dressed, right down to sock garters, and I swear, you can feel it in the language.)  This is the kind of book that makes me joyful as a reader; I want to dive into the sentences and just swim.

I think this would make a great book club novel for those who might want to dip their toes into more 'literary' fiction; there's some deep emotional choices that would provoke great conversation; and the familiar WWII theme is made fresh with the imaginative narrative style.  Lovers of a stunning good sentence will want this book for sure.

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GIVEAWAY!

I'm thrilled to offer a copy of The Illusion of Separateness to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US and Canadian readers, ends 7/5.

21 comments:

  1. High on the list. I hoard his work, so I'm a little ashamed that I haven't read this one already, but I hate the idea of not having too much more waiting in the wings.

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    1. He's amazing. I haven't read his non-fiction yet but want to -- what a stunning eye for the human experience. This one is worth rushing toward! :)

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  2. This book is getting some serious buzz! I need to make the time to read it soon. I really want to try Van Booy's work!

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    1. It's totally worth the buzz, too -- honestly, such gorgeous writing -- but not overly artsy or decorative. Just ... beautiful! This is a good one to start with -- v approachable with strong characters.

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  3. I have but haven't read Everything Beautiful Began After. I really need to make time for it. And I really need to get my hands on this one; it sounds absolutely fantastic!

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    1. Anna, it is SO GOOD. I still think about it with a flipflop in my belly! But this one is way more your speed, I think -- get to it, and fast! ;)

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  4. I am wanting this book badly!! I LOVED Everything Beautiful Began After - it was my first Van Booy and it melted my heart. So, I am absolutely loving your review of his latest and can't wait to win your giveaway, so that I can sink my teeth into his latest. ;) Thanks so much for the wonderful post (made me super excited for the book!) and thanks for the giveaway!!

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    1. Nadia, wasn't Everything Beautiful Began After just mind-blowingly good?? As I told Anna, I still get butterflies in my belly thinking about it -- it was one of the most exquisite things I've read. This is another one worth yearning for -- fingers crossed for you! ;)

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  5. I feel like you are always three steps ahead of me in reading. I have this one and it hasn't been read. Life has been busy and all I want to do is read but it's not happening this summer!

    I have 5 books to write reviews for. I hope to knock 2 of them out this weekend.

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    1. Ti, I am SO behind on reviews -- I feel you! Here's hoping you get your two done -- who knows when I'll get mine done. This book sparked me out of my reading exhaustion -- although it's hard to start anything after this one!

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  6. I would never have picked this book up on my own but I love the way you describe the writing as poetic - I might have to give it a try.

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    1. Sam, oh, you must -- this and Everything Beautiful Began After -- the language is exquisite. Stunning. But not pretty for pretty's sake, either -- a single sentence carries so much emotion and heft and oomph. Makes me rejoice as a reader and despair as a writer!

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  7. I have heard very good things about this author and his books. Must be put on the TBR list. Sounds right up my alley.

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    1. Can't wait to see what you think of this when you get to it!

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  8. everyone at work has been loving this. the bookstore staff, at least the female contingent, has a collective crush on simon van booy. glad to hear you loved it too!

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  9. Why have I not read Simon Van Booy yet??? Everyone seriously loves his writing. Everything Beautiful Began After is on my kindle... time to get started.

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  10. I'm reading this one this weekend so now I'm super excited to get started. I've heard so many rave about how gorgeous his writing is.

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  11. I want, I want! I've heard nothing but GREAT things :)

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  12. This is the first time I read this author. I just posted my review and wanted to see how other readers have liked his book. You've written an excellent review! I have Everything Beautiful Began After on my Kindle and now look forward to reading it.

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  13. Books like this make me wish I had my book club again.

    Thanks for being on the tour Audra!

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  14. I enjoyed his poetic and philosophical language in the book. Nice review.

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