Everything is Illuminated

After seeing (and loving) this film last year I was lucky to receive the book for Xmas… and what a great story it is. Before covering the story though we need to spend some time on the vocabulary of the Ukranian characters… here is an example…

“‘If you blunder again,’ Grandfather said while he masticated a sausage, ‘I will stop the car and you will get out with a foot in the backside. It will be my foot. It will be your backside. Is this a thing you understand?'”

So I think you can guess it’s a challenging read at times!

The story covers Jon-Fan (Jonathan) who is visiting the Ukraine to find out the history of the woman who saved his Jewish father from the Nazi’s in WWII. He is guided by the premium Alex, Alex’s blind Grandfather (who is the one driving the car) and Sammy Davis Jr Jr who of course is a mad seeing-eye bitch dog. Clear?

As they journey back through the countryside and time, the story alternates between imaginary histories of the small Jewish village and it’s extremely perculiar history and characters – it’s not a simple read at times and does mess with your head, but it’s beauty is in the simplicity of the characters (for example they meet a woman who’s never been in a car and thinks America is in Poland) and like many war stories it really brings home the bad things that good people are forced to do.

By the end of the story there is some reconciliation with the past, but this comes at a very high price – and only a day or so after finishing reading the book do you realise quite how well the author has woven all of the stories together. Read it!