I just love the language jokes, both subtle and unsubtle, inherent in the character of the translator. The first 3/4 of the book had me laughing delightedly so often that I almost rated it up there with Catch-22. The last part of the book took on a more dream-like, esoteric quality, and while I still liked the book very much, I don't give it 5 stars. But if you love language, don't miss this one. It was fun being aware of all kinds of things that the narrator was missing. Takes a lot of skill to write that delicately.
This is one of those books...you either get it, or you don't. I think it was so clever, so magical, so intelligently written, both funny and devastatingly sad at the same time. This is a beautiful book like nothing I have ever read before.
It's an interesting idea, and I liked the concept of this conversation between writers, but the book didn't come together for me at all. I kept being annoyed by little things and getting thrown out of the story of the book. The worst part was the faked bad English, which was very badly faked. I kept stopping reading and I would think to myself "there's no way someone learning English could make a mistake like this - you have to already know English well to draw this connection." I also disliked the contrast between the absurdist shetl faux family history and the realistic Ukranian search for family history - I don't mind absurdism, but the contrast made that whole side of the story seem really pointless.
Upon reading this book, I found my new favorite contemporary author. The introspection of the author in a semi-autobiographical fashion really grabbed me. I just had to make it through the first 50 pages, which at times annoyed, and bored slightly. Get through that, and you'll find the gem I did. This is the only piece that takes away 1/2 star for me. It had me laughing, crying, and wanting to throw the book across the room - something I had not felt since reading Pearl S. Buck's book "The Good Earth" in high school. Years ago...
I am not a huge fan of Foer but did like his other book, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, better than this one. I suppose if you are "into" this kind of (family/Jewish/East European) history, it would be very interesting, but I thought he went on a bit and he lost my interest.
Next to Extremly Loud and Incredibly Close, this is one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. Originally began as a personal history of the author it evolved into a epic novel spanning (I think) like six generations and quite a few countries. All of the characters voices are firmly realized and you will be hard pressed to decide which one will stick with you the most.
Odd, original, impressive. Seriously a good book.
Odd but good. Written from different points of view. My favorite is that of the Ukranian translator who makes use of an English thesaurus extensively in his writing.
I had been very excited to read this after watching the movie. The movie is certainly different than the book (which made certain points of the book confusing to me), but I do think the book was much better. I have certainly never read a book with this type of structure before and I greatly enjoyed the fusing of these three stories into one. I really enjoyed it, though I did like the movie quite a bit as well. The use of language is really what sets this book apart from other books.
I liked it. everyone else in my book group LOVED it.
I read this for a book club, but found it so absurd and difficult to follow that I couldn't finish it!
Sometimes confusing, took some time to get my bearings, but once I did I enjoyed the book.
Couldn't handle it. Couldn't get through it.
LOVE LOVE LOVE this one. it made me all kinds of weepy.
Two stories in one, a holocaust fable, a memoir, entangled families and lives. Highly imaginative and compelling.
This was a selection for my book club and if that was not the case, I would not have finished it. There are three different styles of narration, which rotate. Only one of these was easy to read. The other two have a narrator for whom English is his second language and he's using a thesaurus to select his words. This made his portions slow and difficult to follow however it did get easier the further I got into the book. Even though it was frustrating for me, I think it took skill on the author's part to come up with this idea and stay consistent with it. The story here is amazing and that's also what kept me hanging on to finish. The way it all weaves together is lovely. There are a few scenes that made me hold my breath and a couple that made me laugh out loud. The characters are well written and lovable, even if they aren't likable. This is not a quick, easy read but it is worth it.
An ambitious book that tells the story from 3 different, converging angles. It's one of the few books that I understood better after seeing the film!
I'm giving this book 4 stars instead of 5, because the inconsistent tone kept me from loving it. What starts out as a hilarious combination of bad ESL and the quirky history of a small Ukranian Jewish settlement, turns into a dark, dark chapter from history mixed with modern family angst.
This isn't just a comic-tragedy. While there is essentially no darkness in the beginning of the book, there is absolutely no light left in the end. Other than the unifying storyline, it felt like two different books.
Excellent, humorous, sad. Foer is a great writer, and this is a great book.
With only a yellowing photograph in hand, a young man-also named Jonathan Safran Foer-sets out to find the woman who may or may not have saved his grandfather from the Nazis. Accompanied by an old man haunted by memories of the war; an amourous dog named Sammy Davis, Jr. Jr.; and the unforgettable Alex, a young Ukrainian translator who speaks in a sublimely butchered English, Jonathan is led on a quixotic journey over a devastated landscape and into an unexpected past.
Foer writes with a unique style that sucked me into the story. As would be expected, the book is even better than the movie.
Creative work and some very funny dialogue, thanks to Thesaurus. It got a bit bogged down for me towards the end, however.
I thought that this book starts out a little confusing. Once I figured out the different story lines that were going on, it was an enjoyable read. There are some serious parts in the book that I did not expect because of the light way that the story starts. The end was shocking. I did not expect what happened.
I couldn't get through this book
I could not get into this book, and was very confused by it. I gave up on it for now, with the intent of trying again when life is less hectic and I can concentrate more.
An interesting read. I like the way Foer plays with language, especially with the character Alex. The ending is a bit disappointing, though . . . I liked his second book, "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" much better.
Laugh out loud funny, sad and thought provoking. Very original in its voice and an enjoyable read for those not easily offended by sexual humor.
I don't usually like books with a sort of modern experimentalist style, but this one was really moving, as well as funny.
I couldn't focus on it long enough to keep everyone straight. I had to just put it away.
I don't really know how to start telling you about this book! It is far from a straightforward narrative so it is probably best to start by describing the three primary story arcs:
* The narration by Ukrainian translator Alexander Perchov. Alex is a young man who has a troubled home life but is hired to guide a young writer named Jonathan Safran Foer on a quest to find the woman who may have saved his grandfather from the Nazis. Accompanying Alex and Jonathan is Alex's grandfather (also named Alex ... so as to make things as confusing as possible!) who is haunted by his own memories of the war and Sammy Davis, Junior, Juniora flatulent dog who has amorous feelings to Jonathan.
* Excerpts from the novel that Jonathan Safran Foer is writing about his family's history in the Ukrainian shetl (village) of Trachimbrod. The "novel" ranges from 1791 to 1971 and is told in a magical realism style that defies coherent description. Ranging from broadly comical to fanciful to what can only be called "experimental" (there are flowcharts! fragments of dreams written by villagers! two pages of dots with fragmented words mixed in! a snippet of a play!), these parts of the book can be delightful, irritating, confusing and profoundsometimes all on the same page.
* Letters written by Alex to Jonathan commenting on the novel that Jonathan is writing and Alex's own narrations. In these letters, Alex offers critiques of Jonathan's novel, commentary on the changes that Jonathan suggested for Alex's narration, and increasingly revealing information about Alex's home life. I believe the term for this type of fiction is called metafiction and, let me tell you, it messes with your mind.
Somewhere in all of this is a story about family, friendship, the meaning of love, Nazis, the Holocaust, betrayal, mental illness, the power of the past, what is means to be Jewish, and the nature of truthbut you have to work hard to get it. I was often unsure about what was happening or happened or might have happened. This book is not for the faint-hearted. You're going to have to keep your wits about you while you read. "But is it worth it," you ask. And my answer is....I don't know.
I was very conflicted while reading this book. At times, I was literally laughing out loud at some of Alex's broken English. (You have to be a master of the English language before you can butcher it this amazingly and creatively and artfully.) At other times, I was fighting off a headache from trying to figure out what was happening. I tend to be somewhat of a lazy reader, and this book pushed me to my limits. Honestly, if it weren't for the parts narrated by Alex and Alex's letters to Jonathan, I don't know that I would have made it through the entire book. These parts were an respite for mean oasis amid the craziness of the "Jonathan's novel" sections.
In the end, though, I'm glad I read this book. It felt like an accomplishment of some sort. This book is very highly regarded and considered a modern classic, which is why I gave it a go in the first place. Foer was only in his early 20s when he wrote this, and I find that impressive. Yet, at the same time, I wonder if his precociousness was detrimental. There were many many times I felt like Foer was showing off: "Hey, look what I can do, Reader! Can you do this? Have you seen this before? I bet you haven't! Can you believe I'm only in my early 20s?" Yet, the more magnanimous part of me says "Congrats to you, Jonathan, for pulling off such a high-wire act. You've got talent, and I'm curious to see what you'll do next."
So, I'm giving this my "special" rating for books that I have mixed feelings about: 3.5 stars. This rating is reserved for books I think are worth reading and have flashes of brilliance but something about them kept me from falling love or being able to give a wholehearted recommendation.
i only read the first 22 pages of the book. fart jokes in yiddish are still old jokes.