The Illusion of Separateness
By: Simon van Booy
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase
In The Illusion of Separateness, award-winning author Simon Van Booy tells the haunting and luminous story of how one man’s act of mercy on a World War II battlefield changes the lives of six strangers across time and place. From wartime Britain and Nazi-occupied France, to modern-day Los Angeles, the characters of this gripping novel – inspired by true events – include a child on the brink of starvation, a blind museum curator looking for love, a German infantryman, and a humble caretaker at a retirement home in Santa Monica. Whether they are pursued by old age, shame, disease, or regret, these incandescent characters remain unaware of their connection until seemingly random acts of selflessness lift a veil to reveal the vital parts they play in each other’s lives.
At long last I read Everything Beautiful Began After (review) earlier this year and absolutely adored it and didn’t want to wait long to read another book by him. I heard great things about this book from other readers about this book so after a brief deliberation I decided to pick this book up next.
The Illusion of Separateness feels like a collection of vignettes following six characters from different time periods, their lives and memories, but they are connected in some interesting ways, either through family history or their paths having crossed at some point in their lives. While this is only the second book by Simon van Booy that I’ve read, I feel this is one of his strengths as a writer, that subtle way of revealing and writing about how lives can connect in some of the most surprising ways. These characters’ lives are quiet for the most part and despite of some of the experiences that they’ve had–namely those who lived and fought during World War II–the narrative really highlights more of the everyday, of their hopes, their loves. If it feels incomplete in some sense–and it sort of does, at least with where some of the characters were left off–in a way it’s true to life.
I’m not sure what else to say about this book. It held my attention partly because I wanted to know how all of these characters were connected, whose actions impacted whose, how did this character end up the way he was, ets. It also held my attention because of just those quiet moments about life and age and memory. While it doesn’t have as many wonderful quotes as Everything Beautiful Began After that I scribbled down right after, this book also had a few good quotes here and there. Overall I liked The Illusion of Separateness and can’t wait to read more of his books!