Friday, 15 April 2011

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - book review

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
by Jonathan Safran Foer
April 2011

Following my review of "The Curious Incident" Bones sent me a copy of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, a book she felt I would enjoy as it was in a similar genre.

To say it is an unusual book would be an understatement, but one which is very skillfully crafted.

The book tells the story of Oskar Schell, a 3rd generation immigrant who suffers from an not really diagnosed condition, although one assumes it is a form of Autism or Aspergers. His Grandparents escaped from Dresden during the War. The family tale is by and large a sad one, with tragedies throughout the generations and the book takes letters from each party and allows the reader to builds up a picture of the entire group dynamic.

Now Oskar lost his father in the 9:11 disaster, and the book is written two years later when the wounds were very still raw. Oskar discovers a key in a vase his dad had bought, which had the name Black on it. He figured he could get some peace if he discovered what was behind the lock and set about contacting every Black in New York, and hopefully through them identify which of the city's 19million locks it fitted.

The story of the Grandparents gradual slip away from sanity and ultimate to separation was heart wrenching, it was so evocative I have to set the book aside in a restaurant or risk crying in public.

The book carried a number of observant one liners, typified by the statement that "we are all like burning skyscrapers, all alight whether we admit or not and ultimately doomed - its just a matter of when". Cheery stuff given the nature of his fathers death.


  • Boy seeks for the key to his deceased fathers life
  • Fails to find what he seeks but in so doing helps another find his father
  • Along the way he encounters so many lonely people in a bustling city
  • He unwittingly opens the door on so many lives that he has stumbled into
  • Along the way he finds his grandfather, and the story of his life with his grandmother
  • Lives are complicated, few have it all together and at the end of the day who is to say what is "normal".
  • We are an eclectic rainbow of souls struggling through life, clinging to the wreckage and helping one another along the way.

Then there is the style of the writing. Very quirky and creative - words, photos, diagrams all underpinned by a staccato delivery of a highly intelligent but unusual young boy.

Not an easy good time tale, but one which is engaging and thought provoking. Well worth the investment of you time.

Bones, thank you.

ISBN 978-0-14-101269-8