Nine-year-old Oskar Schell is an inventor, amateur entomologist, computer consultant, Francophile, letter writer, pacifist, amateur astronomer, natural historian, percussionist, romantic, Great Explorer, jeweller, origamist, detective, vegan and collector of butterflies.
When his father is killed in the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center, Oskar sets out to solve the mystery of a key he discovers in his father's closet. It is a search which leads him into the lives of strangers, through the five boroughs of New York, into history, to the bombings of Dresden and Hiroshima, and on an inward journey which brings him closer to some kind of peace.
I'm not quite sure where to begin with a review of this book, or what rating to give it.
My reactions whilst I was reading were that this was an extremely hard book to read...it felt like just plain hard work. The characters were on the crazy side, their antics varied from heart wrenching to just plain silly, their relationships very strange, however, there were definitely still moments of great tenderness, humour and poignancy.
Spread throughout the text there are various pages that are either images which are connected with the story, or not! Some of these had the effect of galvanising the storyline, but there were several which were a distraction as opposed to an addition. For example there is a chapter which is Oskar's grandfather writing to his son, and all through the letter there are red pen marks correctly spelling and grammatical mistakes.
This was a challenge, and that can be a good thing right?? Right, but in a lot of ways this was a very disjointed and too complex story, with some additional poignancy.
Interestingly enough, Jonathan Safran Foer is married to fellow author Nicole Krauss, whose novel The History of Love, takes a very similar set of circumstances and explores them. It will be interesting to do a comparison between the two books in due course.