We’ve all been there. Whether in high school English, in college, or while reading for fun everyone has come across a ‘classic’ they hated but every literary critic and high school teacher seems to love.
I came across another one of those books in my 1001 Books to Read Before You Die journey. Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer is the story of an American who returns to Ukraine to find the woman who saved his grandfather’s life during WWII. At least that’s what a normal review will tell you. I will tell you it was the story of an author trying too hard to be funny through language, resulting in dull monologues about nothing but repetitive words just for the author’s pleasure.
Ok, so there were good parts of the book too. I just barely convinced myself to finish it after 4 months of periodically picking it up, and the end was much much better than the first 3/4 of the book. That, however, does not make the book good. I don’t know why any literary critic who actually respects the fact that traditionally books have a plot that isn’t EXTREMELY easily summarized in a sentence or two (read: nothing else happens but the author playing with language) would like this book. But, alas, this book has received some of the highest reviews of any of the 1001 books.
I’m sure I’ll come across more of these – books I expect to be good based on the plot summary and reviews, but I end up hating. This was one of Foer’s first works so maybe the others will be good, but I found this one to be a literary critic’s dream and my worst nightmare.