I finally finished Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close last night, while tucked in bed nursing a dreadful cold, fever and headache. I know, I know, I should probably have just closed my eyes and tried to sleep. But Pilgrim Dad was such a sweetheart to brew me herbal tea and put the kids to bed, and it seemed such a shame to waste the peace!
Anyhow, the book is about a precocious 9-year-old named Oskar, who discovers a key in his father’s closet, and sets out on a journey to find the matching lock. It’s told in the first person, mainly by Oskar, giving the prose a lightness (and readability) that belies the tragedy beneath. Two acts of war frame the narrative – 9/11, where Oskar’s father perished, and the WW2 bombing of Dresden, which traumatised Oskar’s grandfather in his youth. Ultimately, the story is less about the mystery of the lock than what he discovers along the way, about loss, grief and love.
The book was by turns funny, heartwarming and heartwrenching. Great how the author Jonathan Safran Foer gave his prose a visual kick from time to time e.g. by playing with spacing or other more graphic devices. And I especially loved how the character of Oskar’s mother was subtly written, and revealed.
The book reminded me of another child-narrated novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which I also thoroughly enjoyed. Using a flawed first-person narrator is such a great way to tease and engage a reader!