Category Archives: jonathan safran foer

The Power of Memory

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The Power of Memory

Everything Is Illuminated is a novel about the power of memory and the fine line between fiction and reality. I didn’t really know what to expect when I opened the pages of this novel. I hadn’t really heard all that much about it and know no one who has read it before. All I knew was that it was made into a movie, which I still have yet to see.

The novel unfolds slowly peeling back layers and layers of protection from each character until their ultimate truth can be revealed. The first few chapters had me laughing out loud. Alex plays the lovable, bumbling idiot to perfection. The Ukrainian family is full of delightful quirks, like a grandfather who believes he is blind and must have a seeing eye bitch named Sammy Davis Junior Junior. But it’s not until you delve further into the novel that you realize those quirks are guards each characters puts up to present a chosen image of themselves to the world so that they may remain protected.

The theme that hit me the most throughout the novel was one of fiction vs. reality. You never really know what’s true and what the character has invented based on their facade. Every character is unreliable and creates an illusion of the way they see things or the way they want others to perceive them. Beginning with Brod and continuing on through, each character manufactures and invents a history for themselves to blur the lines between fiction and reality. Brod often confuses the books she reads with her real life events to the point where she doesn’t know what is true and what is make believe. Jonathan creates a whole history for his ancestors that is in part truth and in part added embellishment in the exchange of letters between him and Alex. Even Alex creates a persona for himself that is more fantasy than it is reality. The whole book itself is also a blur of fiction and reality. Upon some research, I found out that the actual author did go to Ukraine in search for family connections, just as in the book, but didn’t find what he was looking for so he decided to invent this alternative history in narrative form.

Everything Is Illuminated is a powerful book about memory and loss and the ways we as humans cope and struggle to make sense of things.

Rating: 4/5

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in reading literary fiction that you have to analyze and read between the lines to figure out. Now I must find the movie so I can watch it! Fingers crossed it’s on Netflix.

Stay tuned for the next book in Book Battle 2015. I’m oscillating between two categories so hopefully I will be able to make up my mine soon. Happy reading!

Everything Is Illuminated

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Everything Is Illuminated

Book Battle 2015 continues with a novel by an author under 30, and that novel is Everything Is Illuminated. I saw the trailer for this novel, well the movie adaptation, years ago and thought that it would be entertaining but for some reason never went out to see it. And in a way I’m glad I didn’t because now I get to read the book first and then watch the movie. As if I needed more impetus to read but then it never hurts.

The author of Everything Is Illuminated, Jonathan Safran Foer, published the book in 2002 when he was 25, pretty impressive. The basic premise is the main character, who has the same name as the author, goes to Ukraine in search of a lady named Augustine that saved his grandfather’s life from the Nazi’s during WWII. Now I’m not sure exactly if this is autobiographical or a literary convention the author is using but I will keep you updated on what I find out. Based solely on the book’s jacket, I think this is going to be one wild ride of a read. I admit the jacket design had me a bit confused, it’s an inversion of itself black and white lettering on one side and white with black lettering on the other. Going from back to front you also have to flip the book upside down to read each flap. Typical for me, I started on the wrong side and when I went to open the book all the text was upside down. Though the design did pique my interest, well played jacket designer.

I’m pretty pumped to begin the next phase of the Book Battle and can’t wait to see what’s in store for me in Everything Is Illuminated. Happy reading fellow Book Battlers!