Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Weaving Connections and Characters: A Review of The Illusion of Separateness by Simon Van Booty

Really, I haven't fallen off the face of the earth. I've been having trouble getting my brain to play nice lately and using the writing energy I can muster for my law firm ghost-blogging. I have been doing a bit better on the reading front of late and this review has been on my to-do list for a bit....

This book sits somewhere between the (recently trendy) format of linked short stories and a novel.  The settings range from World War II Europe to the twenty-first century U.S., with some of the focal characters getting revisited at multiple times in their lives.  Early on we meet Mr. Hugo, a man severely deformed in the war who we meet as an elderly man whose days are brightened by a young neighbor.  We meet him again in later chapters, learning more about his life.  We meet a young blind woman hoping for love.  We also meet a couple in love when the man leaves for the war.  The woman comes to believe her young love has been lost in the war, only to have him reappear many years later.  These stories weave together, along with others, and the characters impacting each other lives in ways small and large.

I am struggling to put words to my experience of this book.  At times it felt like it was trying too hard.  Or I was trying too hard...and I don't know if that's my doing or the book's or both (that brings up memories of literary theory, not a subject I enjoyed).  I focused too much on trying to identify overlaps and spot connections that I sometimes didn't enjoy the journey of the read.  Ultimately, I think the big connections do become clear enough that the extra focus wasn't needed, although I might have missed little pieces if I didn't keep the level of vigilance. 

Trying to set that all aside for some other thoughts....I came to care about many of the characters, appreciating their human-ness and their desire for connection.  Several of them pulled at my heart, always a sign of a good read.  Van Booty clearly has a talent for words and the language is lovely.  There's a lot of sadness and loneliness, but there's an underlying reminder of enduring connections.

It's a beautiful book, but it is very much trying to be....it feels a bit unfair to criticize that, but it did impact my reading experience.  Three and a half to four stars (with thanks to Harper for providing me an advance reader's copy).

1 comment:

Tilly said...

This is gorgeous!