The Illusion of Separateness by Simon van Booy

The Illusion of Separateness - Simon van BooyThe Illusion of Separateness – Simon van Booy
Harpercollins, July 2013
ARC from the publisher
Buy: Amazon | Bookdepository *

There is something about the titles of Simon van Booy’s books that is instantly convincing. It is not often that I put a book on the TBR based on title alone. But Van Booy’s manage to. I would say always, but that would not be exactly true as this is only the second book I have read by him.

There is the perpetual trouble of trying to summarise a book by Van Booy. Somehow, providing a short overview makes this sound incredibly corny. I am sure it would have been, in the hands of most, but Van Booy brings with him a mixture of pessimism and optimism, as Kim mentions in her post about this book, that gets the balance just right. So yes, what might look corny in the following plot summary, in fact is not:

The Illusion of Separateness is a novel of interconnected vignettes about how people and their acts of kindness touch each other’s lives over the course of decades, ranging from a deformed German infantryman to a caretaker at a retirement home for actors in Santa Monica. The effects of their actions might not be immediate, but they are real.

I have read one other book by Van Booy, his first novel: Everything Beautiful Began After. My post about the book reads confusingly that I couldn’t quite love it, wasn’t quite convinced, and yet found it beautiful. After writing said review, I fear disappointment in the book took over a little, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that something I should have loved, that should have been wonderful, became a bit overshadowed by not quite getting it right.

But here is Van Booy with another novel, and I couldn’t resist giving him another try. I am glad I did. I find that it shows that Van Booy is generally considered an exquisite short story writer. Therefore, it is smart to build a novel out of vignettes, that are just long enough to set the tone, to make you care, to lift a tip of the curtain, and yet never too long to become what I feel would have turned into pretense if it had been written any other way.

I really enjoyed The Illusion of Separateness. The writing beautiful, as you’d come to expect from all the blogger’s much more knowledgable posts about his fiction. The message surprisingly subtle and beautiful with what I feared would become too overt never tipping into that shady area that would have weakened the book.

The Illusion of Separateness convinced me where Everything Beautiful Began After made me doubt if I was able to see what had convinced everyone else. I do not think Van Booy will fully emerge as a favourite author for me, but I do very much appreciate his fiction and his prose. On to his short stories, I say, right?

Other Opinions: My Books, My Life, Sophisticated Dorkiness, she treads softlyBookNAround, Boston Bibliophile, Jenn’s Bookshelves, A Resder’s Respite, Fingers & Prose, Musings of a Bookish Kitty, Like Fire, Between the Covers, Estella’s Revenge, Bookfoolery,  That’s What She Read, The Blog of Litwits, Yours?

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13 thoughts on “The Illusion of Separateness by Simon van Booy

    1. Iris Post author

      I can’t tell you whether to start with this one if you want to read anything by him. I’ve been told that his short story collections are the best, but I haven’t read those so I can’t compare.

  1. Andi (@estellasrevenge)

    Glad this one worked better for you than Everything Beautiful Began After. It’s my favorite of his “novels” so far, and I definitely think the vignette format plays to his strength as a short story writer. I wrote a very gushy review indeed. And made a vlog about it, too. lol

    1. Iris Post author

      I watched your vlog! I so admire you for vlogging (it’s something I am way too shy for, plus my English sounds funny due to my accent).

  2. Care

    I agree — something magical overcomes the almost expectation of mushy silly love story or SOMETHING and yet SVB is just awesome. I have read 2 books of his and am very much looking forward to this one. He is delightful author. I am a big fan.

  3. buriedinprint

    I enjoyed reading about the circuitous route you took to enjoying his work; I haven’t read any myself, but I really like the sounds of this one, and of the short stories. I’ll have a look out!

  4. Jennifer

    I have been reading a lot of fabulous reviews about van Booy and especially this novel. I’m glad that you enjoyed it and I am hoping that I’ll get around to reading it eventually.


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