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TonyTalbot

TonyTalbot

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Nicholas Nickleby
Charles Dickens, Mark Ford

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close: A Novel

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - Jonathan Safran Foer Oskar Schell, 9 years old going on 30, lost his father in the 9/11 attacks, and this book is the story of his journey to come to terms with it. He finds a key with the word, 'Black' written in his father's handwriting, and sets out to find out who it belongs to, and what they can tell him about his father. Along the way, he meets a woman who lives on the observatory deck of The Empire State Building and a woman who has a museum for her husband - who isn't dead.And here's the thing: I should care. I should cry for these people, trapped in their own bubbles of loneliness and grief. And I don't. All the characters in the first 90% of the novel are two dimensional and uninteresting. There are flashbacks to Oskars paternal Grandfather which don't make any sense until the last 10% of the book, and mostly feel like padding anyway - at one point there's even a flashback inside a flashback. The author tries to draw parallels which I don't think exist between the bombing of Dresden in World War Two and the attacks of 9/11.Oskar barely interacts at all with his mother through most of the story, and she might as well have been in Canada for the input and effect she has on the story.But there are good parts as well...in searching for his father, Oskar helps the people he meets in subtle ways, ways that didn't occur to me until a few hours after I finished the book. He discovers his paternal Grandfather, semi-hiding in his Grandmothers apartment, and helps him come to terms with the loss of his childhood sweetheart in Dresden (At least, you assume she's killed; it all happens off-stage and is never clarified), and the loss of his son (Oskars father). He helps the man who lives in the apartment above him find new life again with the woman who lives at the top of The Empire State Building.But all this only kicks in with the last 10% of the book; the rest felt flat and empty. Even there, the padding is evident - Oskars Grandfather, struck dumb by the events of Dresden - in a flashback, tells how he tried to telephone Oskars Grandmother. There are three pages of nothing but numbersas he tries to spell out what he wants to say to her. Literally, pages of this: 8, 4, 3, 7, 9, 1, 3, 4... Padding, padding, padding.Annoyingly, since I read it on my Kindle, there are pages inserted as PDFs, where the writing is smaller - and there's no zoom for PDFS inside a Kindle book. I would have loved to have read Oskar's business card - it looked cool - but it was too small to see.All in all, the last 10% of the book moved me when I should have been laughing and crying all the way through. What a shame.