Book Concierge's Reviews > The Illusion of Separateness

The Illusion of Separateness by Simon Van Booy
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's review

really liked it
bookshelves: book-club, california, concierge, england, france, library, new-york, world-war-ii

3.5*** (rounded up)

From the book jacket This gripping novel – inspired by true events – tells the interwoven stories of a German infantryman; a British film director; a young, blind museum curator; two Jewish American newlyweds separated by war; and a caretaker at a retirement home for actors in Santa Monica. They move through the same world but fail to perceive their connections until, through seemingly random acts of selflessness, a veil is lifted to reveal the vital parts they have played in one another’s lives, and the illusion of their separateness.

My reactions
Van Booy tells this interwoven story from different perspectives and in different time periods. We meet Martin, the caretaker at the retirement home in 2010 Los Angeles first; next we watch Mr Hugo in Manchester England teaching a little boy, Danny, to read in 1981; in 1968 a young boy plays in and around the remains of a downed plane he finds in the forest in France; John snaps a picture of his girlfriend at Coney Island in 1942; Amelia learns to live with her blindness in New York in 2005. And the chapters continue in a seemingly random fashion, introducing new characters, returning to revisit them, skipping back and forth in time, and occasionally giving the reader a glimpse of a connection between their stories. The final paragraph ties it all together for us in one stunningly simple phrase.

The writing is poetic and fluid. I felt immersed in the story, and was never disoriented by the changing perspectives or time lines. Some scenes are horrific, especially during the war. But the author does not leave the reader in these horrible circumstances for long; there are also scenes of great tenderness and kindness. Throughout we see how a small act of kindness – or cruelty – can reverberate through time and across continents.

That being said, I was left somewhat dissatisfied. I cannot quite put my finger on why I felt this way, but there were times when I felt that Van Booy was trying too hard, that the coincidences / connections were too clever.

Having finished it, I was so looking forward to my F2F book club meeting, but the discussion leader failed to show up and the conversation fizzled out too quickly for me. I want to read it again, and I would definitely read another book by this author.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
October 11, 2017 – Finished Reading
October 19, 2017 – Shelved
October 19, 2017 – Shelved as: book-club
October 19, 2017 – Shelved as: california
October 19, 2017 – Shelved as: concierge
October 19, 2017 – Shelved as: england
October 19, 2017 – Shelved as: france
October 19, 2017 – Shelved as: library
October 19, 2017 – Shelved as: new-york
October 19, 2017 – Shelved as: world-war-ii

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