“Humans are the only animal that blushes, laughs, has religion, wages war, and kisses with lips. So in a way, the more you kiss with lips, the more human you are.”
Author: Jonathan Safran Foer Published: 2005 Pages: 368
This novel is written from the perspective of a nine year old boy, Oskar Schell, who lives in New York and whose dad, Thomas, was a victim of the 9/11 bombings. Although I have read a lot of information about the 9/11 attacks, I have never read an account, albeit fictional, as compelling as this. Oskar sees the world slightly differently to everyone else. As an inventor, letter-writer, detective, vegan, amateur astronomer and entomologist, jewellery designer and collector of various objects, amongst other things, when Oskar’s dad is killed, he deals with it in a way that is heart-wrenching and truly inspiring. Oskar finds a blue vase in his dad’s cupboard and inside it is a key. Convinced that this will be a way for Oskar to get closer to his father, he makes it his mission to travel all over New York and find the lock in which it fits. Armed with his tambourine, his journey takes him into the homes of many strangers in the hope of finding out what the key opens.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close depicts the crushing torment of a vulnerable nine-year-old boy coping with grief. Foer captures the innocence of childhood and presents Oskar’s naivety in such a way that you can’t help but fall in love with him. Throughout the book Oskar creates many inventions, some of which are truly inspiring; from a skyscraper that moves up and down so if a “plane hits below you, the building could take you to the ground, and everyone could be safe” to microphones that everyone swallows so you could hear everyone’s hearts beating together “sort of like sonar.” Foer’s writing is beautiful and absolutely breath-taking. While the book is told from such a young voice, it raises deep and moral questions about the state of humanity and its attitudes towards violence. 9/11 is something that should not be forgotten quickly, and this novel certainly highlights the tragedy of those caught in the crossfire of mankind’s endless destruction in its pursuit of dominance.
John Boyne uses a quote to describe his novel The Boy in Striped Pyjamas which I think is quite befitting for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close:
“A story of innocence in a world of ignorance.”