Book Review: “The Illusion of Separateness” by Simon Van Booy
by Richard Mansel
A book review is a personalized event, relating our perceptions about what we have just read.
An honest reviewer will keep this in mind and be fair with their readers. Everyone has their own personal tastes and presuming that what the reviewer prefers is what everyone will want, is dishonest.
We are providing an analysis, not an edict.
Booy weaves a story of individuals who were touched in some way by World War II. Each chapter opens a window on their lives as the threads are intricately woven together.
“The Illusion of Separateness” is written in poetic prose, which is an acquired taste. This writing style requires the reader to focus on the whole, rather than the sum of its parts.
Consider this excerpt…
“John clearing dishes. His mother’s voice saying good-bye in the distance. The register and its tight bell. The smell of syrup. The fire of yolk over white plates. Uneaten crusts of toast. A single fork under the table. The ashtrays completely full. And somebody has forgotten a coat.”
While strongly atmospheric, reading in bullet-point is a jarring experience for anyone attuned to flowing prose. We must ignore the stunted and string them together in a chain for them to sing. The writer, as a result, more closely resembles a composer.
Poetic prose is very hard to do, and it doesn’t always work. Booy’s efforts are mostly consistent. Some are average while others waft up as a beautiful aria. It is writing on a high-wire. However, writing to be quoted is certainly noble work.
The story is tender and passionate. All of the individuals are real and ring true. Mr. Hugo will stay with the reader for a long time.
Tragedy, guilt, grief and hope are universal themes in fiction and here they are given a passionate voice. The reader will be rewarded by reading this slim volume.
To the reader who is ready to sing with poetic prose, “The Illusion of Separateness” is ready for opening night.