It’s a little difficult juggling book clubs sometimes, but my grad student book club is infinitely easier, because we only meet about 3 times in the school year. This time, my friend K suggested The Illusion of Separateness, and since it had received good reviews–including from her–we all agreed it would be a good pick.
This is a novel told in vignettes, veering between 2010 and 1945, when John Bray goes to France to fight in World War II and Danny, a successful film director, tries to find his kindly and disfigured elderly neighbor, to a blind young woman named Amelia. The stories are all connected, though in a much more explicit way than in David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. The story goes back and forth in time, connecting all the pieces for the reader, until the mystery resolves somewhat at the end.
Simon van Booy is a very good writer, but I confess to finding myself rather disappointed in The Illusion of Separateness. First, I should probably admit: had I read this *before* Anthony Doerr’s splendid masterpiece, All the Light We Cannot See, I probably would have liked this novel more. But in comparison to the richness of Doerr’s prose and narrative, this felt rushed and slightly cheapened. The novel is fascinating at the very end, but is so tacked on that I felt the lack of development in the story. I was prepared to like this story, and really, I thought it was just okay. There were also some plot points I found very predictable, and I was not delighted by that. I would definitely seek out something else by Simon van Booy, though. His style is eloquent and engaging.