Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Illusion of Separateness; Simon Van Booy

Author: Simon Van Booy 
Publication Year:  2013 
Publisher: Harper
Edition: arc/eGalley
Source:  publisher
Date Completed: Aug - 2013
Rating: 4/5

The Illusion of Separateness was my first experience reading something by Simon Van Booy, and although I had a few issues with this book, I am still anxious to try another book by this author.

The novel is told in a series of interconnected stories, beginning with -- Martin's Story, which takes place in Los Angeles in 2010.  Martin is working at the Starlight Retirement Home, the place where the once rich and famous, but now elderly call home.  Martin is some sort of caretaker at the home,  He is a quiet, older man who knows very little about his family. He was adopted and lived in Paris when he was younger. Just as Martin’s story is wrapping up, a new resident, by the name of Victor Hugo (disfigured and dying), is being welcomed at the home. 

"Martin had planned to watch car racing in his room. Saturday afternoon is usually his.  But twenty minutes won't hurt, and there will probably be sandwiches and cookies.  The new resident, Mr Hugo, might even have an interesting story.  Maybe he too was once married and now forced to live alone.  Maybe his childhood is a mystery.  We all have different lives, Martin believes--but in the end probably feel the same tings, and regret the fear we thought might somehow sustain us."

The next story is Mr Hugo's story, flashing back to Manchester, England 1981. There are several more characters and stories which follow, which include: an American soldier, a German soldier, Amelia, a blind woman who works at an art museum in NYC, a young French boy named Sebastien and Danny a film producer.

Each story within the story takes place in a different time period and locale within and outside the US. The stories begin in 2010, then go back to 1981 England, 1968 France, 2005 NY, 1944 France, 2010 England - frankly, all over the map. I'm not a fan of nonlinear narrative, so this novel could have been a disaster for me, had it non been for the author's writing skill. The writing is simple, yet beautiful.

 "Rain says everything we cannot say to one another. It is an ancient sound that willed all life into being, but fell so long upon nothing.

The silence after it is always louder.  Birds whistle from low tree branches, tying their wishes in knots.  I imagine their hearts and feel one in my hand like a hot seed."

It's a book that could be read very quickly, yet I suspect that most will want to take their time with this one. A patient reader will be rewarded with a good story with wonderful passages that leave you with much to think about. 


  1. I loved the way all the story lines and characters came together in the end.

  2. I can't believe that I still haven't gtten to this one. Must read it soon.

  3. Definitely a book that deserves to be read slowly, but I flew through it myself. Will reread one day at a much slower pace. So very good.

  4. I need to make the time to read this. I really want to try Van Booy's work.

  5. I've been meaning to read some Van Booy for a while. Even though you had some issues, sounds like this one would be a good start.

  6. Lots to read, stories within stories sounds good!

  7. It definitely sounds like a book to be savored. Great review!

  8. I plan to read Van Booy soon. Everything Beautiful Began AFter is on my kindle and I'm on the library hold list for this one... it sounds very good!


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