Extremely loud and incredibly close

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Jonathan Safran Foer´s novel Extremely loud and incredibly close tells a story of an extraordinary nine year old boy named Oskar who tries to deal with his father’s death by looking for a lock that fits the key he found in his father’s closet. Four lets us look through Oskar´s eyes into the world around him and lets us feel the sadness and experience the confusion that he has to deal with.

Extremely loud and incredibly close is the second novel of Four. He is mostly known for his debut novel Everything is illuminated. Both of his books have been adapted into films by the same name.

Jonathan Safran Four was born in Washington D.C. as the middle child of a Jewish family. He had a nervous breakdown for three years as a result of a chemical accident in class when he was 8. The moment he decided to try writing in a serious way was after he took writing course with author Joyce Carol Oates. She inspired him to start writing.

Although Oskar -inventor, letter-writer and amateur detective- has had a fear for meeting new people all his life, he more and more conquers that fear during his search for the lock. He travels all over New York to speak to every person that carries the name Black because that is the only clue he found on the envelope with the key.

The book is full of funny, beautiful and heartbreaking quotes. For instance Oskar tells women of his mother’s age they are beautiful and asks them to kiss him or he constantly invents things like long ambulances that could connect every building to a hospital or machines that would play your heartbeat through a speaker. Oskars favourite expression for feeling depressed is wearing heavy boots.

Throughout the book there are letters from his grandparents written to their son or grandson. From the content of these letters you learn their stories and you see how they are trying to live with the things they went through. They were in the bombings of Dresden during World War two which damaged them for the rest of their lives. Just like 9/11 left a scar on Oskar.

This book brought up many emotions when I read it. Sometimes I was hardly able to hold my tears and other times I couldn’t stop smiling. A definite smiling moment was this:

What if the water that came out of the shower was treated with a chemical that responded to a combination of things, like your heartbeat and your body temperature, and your brain waves, so that your skin changed colour according to your mood. That way if you were extremely excited your skin would turn green, and if you were angry you’d turn red, obviously, and if you felt like shiitake you’d turn brown, if you were blue you’d turn blue.

He explains that if your skin would change colour, you would know how to treat people which would solve many problems caused by unshared emotions.

Foer was able to pull me into the story in a way that made it hard for me to put the book aside to focus on other things. It is well written in a simple way and therefor makes it easier to lose yourself in the story. And because the book contains all sorts of things to make the story come to life, like photos and pages of his grandfather’s daybook, it becomes an experience to read this story and I would recommend it to everyone.

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The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

Normally, I don’t like reading books, but some books have a rare beauty. Those books create an almost indelible impression and leave a lasting memory in my head. Books like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Books which you will never forget and you want all your friends and family to read too. Books that remain a precious possession forever , like an old and faithful friend , and of which you are sure that you will enjoy reading it again. Books that you sometimes think that they have influenced your life in some way and that they might have made a better person of you. Because of the beauty of it, you have been moved in a way that you thought up to that point was not really possible. Such a book is the beautiful The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne. An almost overwhelming literary work with a very strong emotional charge. Touching, frightening, disturbing and most definitely memorable. A masterpiece.

ImageThe story begins in 1943 as the nine-year-old Bruno comes home from school and hears that his father has been promoted. His family has to move from Berlin to a new and distant environment. Near to the new house is a huge fence that stretches as far as the eye can see. Behind that fence there are a lot of people walking around in strange clothing, which Bruno mistakes for striped pyjamas . The boy doesn’t understand any of this and also doesn’t understand at all why they had to move out here. In Berlin friends were in abundance, while in his new hometown there seem to live no children at all. At least… not on his side of that huge fence.

The book by John Boyne is written completely from the perspective of the young Bruno and the whole world looks quite different. In fact, the world that we know, and which we think we understand, is made totally incomprehensible by his way of telling. Just as the world for a boy of that age is a real mystery. Bruno wants to discover this strange world. One day he decides to explore the area around his new home and makes long walks along the strange and unexplained fence. In this way he eventually makes a new friend with whom he can not play, but with whom he can talk . Even so it is unclear for Bruno why his new friend is sitting on the other side of the fence and why he is always hungry. The story captivates and troubles almost from the beginning and continues swaying in different directions . By the end of the book, you’d think it ‘s going to get a kind of open end, maybe something with a message for the future with a great moral. Instead, Boyne considers an almost genius denouement, which will definitely grab you by the throat and is almost incomprehensible at the time of reading. Absolutely brilliant and very moving. A shuddering end of a very, very memorable book.

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”People always think something’s all true.”

Titel: The Catcher in the Rye
Autor: J.D. Salinger
Publisher: Penguin Books
Year: 1951

Do I feel like murdering someone like John Lennon or JFK right now? 

To be honest, not really. But according to some famous assassins ‘Catcher in the Rye’ was the trigger to murder someone.

So besides that ‘Catcher in the Rye’ potently transforms you into a killer, is it still worthwhile to read the book?
Yes it is. This book reveals the mind and thoughts of an adolescent, who finds himself having much trouble to be as society wants him to be. The most fascinating is that all his decisions and thoughts are understandable and recognizable, what regularly forces you to think about your own life.

Holden Caulfield describes a short period of time, of about a week. He does it with an autobiographic style and he tends to describe all his thoughts and feelings whenever he can. The story starts when Holden, an adolescent who thinks most guys are ‘phony’ or ‘crumby’, was again expelled from a school in which he couldn’t fit. But Holden doesn’t care so much, like he doesn’t care for the most things in life. He only cares about a few things, especially his little sister, who is in elementary school, and his little brother, who passed away a couple of years ago. Holden decides to return to his hometown NYC, because he has no reasons to stay any longer on his former school. Throughout the fact that he doesn’t want to face his parents he wanders through New York, sleeping in cheap hotels and other questionable places. His urge to do things drives him to a lot of different places where he meets lots of different people. Using conversations and his own thoughts, Holden tries to understand himself and the world. He asks multiple times where the ducks go when the lagoon freezes. 
He struggles a lot with becoming an adult. In an conversation with his little sister he says that the only thing he wants to be is a Catcher who prevents all the children of falling off a cliff when they are playing in the Rye.  

Salinger really succeeds in making the reader understand that every person is unique and that maybe Holden’s problems are not caused by Holden himself, because he can’t adapt himself to society, but that society is to blame.
The book really makes you doubt what is important in life. The metaphors are brilliant, ‘how can you prevent that you become a fish in the lagoon forced to stay there, instead of being a duck, free to go wherever you want.’
In this book it’s not the story that’s exceptional, but the way the story reveals the mind of someone who could have been you.

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‘Big Brother is watching you’ – Nineteen eighty-four by George Orwell.

Imagine living in a world where everything you do is watched. This is what Eric Arthur Blair – known by his pen name George Orwell – created in this book. He began writing this book in 1948 just a few years after WO II when a certain pessimist moral seemed to take hold of the people due to the Cold War, when political and military tension between powers was sustained. Orwell has shown opposition to totalitarianism and commitment to democratic socialism in most of his books for example ‘Animal farm’ but in  ‘1984’ he shows his opposition against the Soviet-Union in an outstanding way.

Orwell describes frightening prescient state of modern society in this book. He gives us an empty, over-politicized world which is controlled through the eyes of Big Brother and the all-seeing telescreens. He sketches a dystopia, a horrible society which is the exact opposite of an utopia. Which will fright you by it accuracy.Image

The story follows Winston Smith, a middle-aged man who lives in Oceania – this is a superpower which encompasses what Great Britain is nowadays – He is a lower member of the party, which is separated into three categories; inner party, outer party and the proles. Winston works in the Ministry of Truth where he changes historical information in newspapers and books to portray the government in a better light. The official language spoken in Oceania is called Newspeak, and unlike all other languages, it shrinks instead of expands. Because the ultimate purpose of Newspeak is to create a world in which people would have no words to express so-called ‘unorthodox thoughts’, and therefore can’t share them or even acknowledge them to start with. 

At the Ministry he meets a co-worker called Julia a secret affair blossoms between the two of them. But this can’t get out because the party is focused on individualism, people got to have as little interaction with others as possible. Sadly this love story won’t last long, because suddenly they get shaken up from their pink cloud and come to the realisation that the only place that seemed to be safe and private isn’t what they thought it was like. From that point everything escalates really quickly, which in the end leads to both of them coming out of it as an extremely different person with different thoughts and feelings. 

‘1984’ is a part of the canon of English literature for many reasons. Let’s take its contribution to the English language. Orwell used a lot of made-up words, idioms and sayings which are now used in everyday society.

Also, the great plot-twist. We are used to the hero vanquishing the bad guys, the hero getting (back) together with the love of his life etc. Instead, Winston, little did the poor man know, gets deceived by the only ones he thinks he can trust; ‘The Brotherhood’. It turns out that all this time he had been walking into the awaiting arms of the government. 

Though the use of English is not too hard, the futuristic aspects and the constant doomscenario may be a snare. The book is divided into three parts, with the first one being the toughest nut to crack. It consists of long-winded descriptions, making it a bit boring to read. The second part however is satisfying; after all, who doesn’t like a good love story? The third pard is by far the best; this consists of drama, action, torture and great happenings. Never have I read pages this quick, longing for more of Winston.  

Privacy ought to be a right instead of a privilege, yet nowadays this is often the exact opposite. The way in which Orwell vividly captures the anxious feeling of 1984’s society is interesting and surprising. Orwell was ahead of his time when he wrote 1984. This book states that the government will use fear to create a ‘perfect’  society. It states that our thoughts are being influenced by deformed newsstories. We  do not have the freedom nor the bravery to use our own mind. Some say the accuracy hurts.

‘He gazed up at the enourmous face. Forty years it had taken him to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath the dark moustache. O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.’ – (part III, page 342)

 

Orwell’s prediction may be the scariest of this all, mainly because it is so accurate to the modern-day society. 

By the end of ‘1984’ you start asking yourself; are we still able to choose another path or are we walking towards the verge of destruction? Sadly, we all know what Orwell would have answered.Image

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A long way down. By Nick Hornby

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A long way down is written by Nick Hornby. He’s born in England on the 17th of April in 1957. He studied English on the Jesus College in Cambridge. He was a teacher and a journalist before he decided that he wanted to be a writer. He  written more good books like: About a boy. In 1999 he got the E.M. Forster Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

The story is about four people named : JJ, Maureen, Martin and Jess. They want to kill themselves on New Year’s Eve. They meet each other on the top off a roof in London. JJ, Maureen and Martin don’t want that Jess to commit suicide because she is so young. Jess says she won’t kill herself, if the others help her find her ex-boyfriend. They agree and won’t commit suicide that day. Martin, Maureen, JJ and Jess decide that they’re a gang. Also they decide that they won’t commit suicide until Valentine’s day. A few days later they find out that the ex-boyfriend off Jess called the papers about their meeting with him, because martin is a TV presenter. The papers say that Jess is Martin’s new girlfriend. They provide from this by saying on television that on the roof they saw an angel who got them down. For this Martin, Maureen, JJ and Jess get a lot of money. Maureen wants to go on a holiday, so they go to the Tenerife. On Valentine’s day no one really wants to commit suicide, but they still go to the roof where they met eachother. Here they see a guy who kills himself by jumping off the roof. They decide to go down, before someone would do the same. When they meet up again Martin says that he has read in a paper that people who want to kill themselfs change their minds after 90 days. Maureen, Martin, JJ and Jess agree to meet after those 90 days and see if things have been changed. After that 90 days they’re all busy getting their lives back on the road again. 

The book is written through the eyes of Jess, JJ, Martin and Maureen. I like that, because you can identify with the characters better than you could if the book was written from another perspective. But the point of view changes a lot in the book. My opinion is that the point of view changed to much, because if the point of view changed less, it would be easier to read. But I think that the storyline in the book is intersting, because the book shows that if you’re at the point that you don’t see the positive things in life anymore and want to commit suicide, that suicide is not the best option.

I like the style how nick hornby has written the book, because he tells the story in a hilarious way, so it isn’t difficult to read.

The end wasn’t suprising because they don’t commit suicide. It, like almost all the books, has a happy ending. I was hoping that this finially was a book were there wasn’t a happy ending. Because that had made the book more different from all the other books.

It’s not the best book I have read so far, but it’s still a book I would recomment reading.

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Last Chance To See

Titel: Last Chance To See
Autor: Douglas Adams
Publisher: Pan Books
Year: 1989

Douglas Adams is known for his science-fiction books. But in his book ‘Last Chance To See’ he doesn’t focus on weird creatures somewhere far in the galaxy, but on weird animals on this planet.

Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine went on a journey for the BBC, all around the world to see a couple of the most forgotten and endangered animals in the world. Mark Carvardine is a passionated zoologist and Douglas Adams a writer who doesn’t know anything about  animals. Because he knows just as much as most of the readers do, it is easy to read and you don’t get the feeling thet Adams wants to teach you tons of uninteresting facts about every moving thing they saw, like most books about nature do. But unconsciously I did learn lots of things!
He writes all the adventures down in a way only Douglas Adams can; highly ironic and funny but without being unrealistic for a second.
He is open to accept every perspective of every case. From Greenpeace-fighter to poachers. I really admired this!
The book is easy to read. But if you look for further description of a word you don’t precisely know, there is a double kakapomeaning which makes it extra funny.

He is also really enthusiastic about everything that I couldn’t be just as excited about, for example, the fascinating lifestyle of the Kakapo. You may think when you see the picture, that this fat parrot can fly. But nothing is less true, and the Kakapo itself finds it hard to believe as well…

“ Sadly, however, it seems that not only has the Kakapo forgotten how to fly, but it has also forgotten that it has forgotten how to fly. Apparently a seriously worried kakapo will sometimes run up a tree and jumps out of it, whereupon it flies like a brick and lands in a graceless heap on the ground.”

Because of these kinds of sentences I loved this book and I hope I will, at one time in my life, be able to write as funny as he can.

The book is separated in different countries where they will look for different endangered animals. The book isn’t only about the animals but also about the attempts to find them. Most of the time this isn’t as easy as it sounds and he talks about it so funny and hopeful, that I was just as glad as they were when they finally found the animals.
The book isn’t only funny, it is also a real eye-opener of how we are ruining our precious planet. During the whole book he writes about his frustration about humanity and how we treat nature.

“ It occurred to me that we had spent a day rapt with wonder watching the mountain gorillas, and being particularly moved at how human the seemed, and finding this to be one of their most engaging and fascinating features. To find afterward that a couple of hours spent with actual humans was merely irritating was a bit confusing”

He also confronts the reader about the fact that some of the animals he is looking for, probably won’t exist anymore in less than 30 years. This really shocked me! It is weird to see, that an animal can mean the world to someone and is worth writing books about, and at the same time the rest of the world doesn’t care at all and destroy lots of species without thinking.
While reading the book I didn’t take it personally, but when I finished the book it really kept me thinking. Now I am more aware of the importance of the ecosystem.

They made these journeys for the BBC in 1988. It became a radio documentary series. Douglas Adams wrote this book afterwards. And also published an audiobook where Adams himself reads out this book.
Because of the great success there now is a tv-series made of it, starring Mark Carwardine and Stephen Fry (who is an old friend of Douglas Adams). Douglas Adams didn’t have the chance to see the tv-series because he died from a heart-attack in 2001.
I didn’t see the tv-series yet but I definitely will because I loved the book!

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Jamaica Inn

Jamaica Inn is one of Daphne du Maurier’s great novels. She’s mostly known for Rebecca, another novel and has written Jamaica Inn in 1936, just after her father died. There have been made two movies of the book, one by Alfred Hitchcock.

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I liked this one because it was straightforward exciting and it kept me on the edge of my seat for almost the whole story. Every page you read makes you want to know what will happen on the next. I could feel sympathy for Mary and the writer has made the character feel so real, you image you walking in her shoes. The book leaves you constantly surprised and guessing the true identity of the characters within it. It makes you want to know the story behind it all and when you think you do there is a big plot twist.

In this book Daphne shows her rich knowledge of the English countryside by describing every detail in the moors of Southern England. She seems to know every small road by the top of her head, which makes it even more realistic.

The story is about Mary, who has had a dying request from her mother . her mother wants Mary to go to her aunt, who lives at the Jamaica Inn, located at Cornwall’s Bodmin Moore. Mary travels without knowing the rumors that go around about the Inn.

He was a huge man, nearly seven feet high with a creased black brow and a skin the color of a gypsy.

When she arrives and settles she comes to know that Joss Merlyn, the husband of aunt Patience and the landlord of the Jamaica inn is a bad man who is almost seven feet tall and has been harassing her aunt for years.  She makes a promise to herself that she will free her aunt from the terror she has been living  in.

She starts observing Joss Merlyn and finds out he’s involved with illegal activity and has meetings with thieves, murderers and other criminals. She discovers that there is something unusual about the Inn, which has never had any guests and is never open. One time, she follows Joss deep into the moors and gets lost. Somehow Francis Davey, an albino vicar from Altarnun coincidently happens to find her and brings her home. He says he’ll always be there for her if she needs help.

One day Mary meets the brother of Joss. His name is Jem and he’s a horse thief. She falls in love with him, but still doesn’t know whether to trust him or not. Meanwhile she finds out that Joss Merlyn is a notorious wrecker and goes on trips to the coast with his friends, to mislead cargo ships to the coast and steal their wares.

Mary’s trust seems misplaced when the real leader of the wreckers is revealed and the truth comes to light about the activities at the Jamaica Inn.

I’d recommend this book to anyone, searching for something to read in a day or two. Du Maurier sometimes goes a little overboard describing the moors and the tors, but this also helps to establish the setting.

For a book that has been written 80 years ago, Jamaica Inn was very readable and also entertaining. Definately worth putting on your reading list.

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