This beautifully written novel tells the story of how acts of kindness and compassion can have long-lasting and far-reaching consequences. Inspired by true events from World War II, Simon Van Booy has skilfully composed an engaging read which captivates and engages from the start as we are drawn into the different life experiences of the characters.

Van Booy illustrates with clarity how the consequences of the actions of one person can shape, for good or ill, the lives of future generations. However it is one man’s simple act of compassion toward another, in a situation over which neither had control that provides the basis for the story. This act is proof that the human spirit, although sometimes bowed can never be diminished.

The chapters switch between World War II and the present day, focusing separately on each of the characters, revealing how their lives are all connected, and how a single act of mercy resonates through the decades. The author masterfully disentangles each separate thread and destroys the illusion of separateness between the characters. He shows how the human condition can be shaped by seemingly random events whose importance is revealed only when the whole story has unfolded.

the full horrors of war, loss, death and separation are illustrated to the reader

The six main characters narrate their own stories with clear and understated prose describing in concise detail the events that make up their lives. Without graphic language or violence, the full horrors of war, loss, death and separation are illustrated to the reader. Van Booy explicitly conveys the thoughts and feelings of each of the characters with elegance and beauty, even when the events themselves are shocking and ugly.

There is a poetic dexterity and a delicateness of touch to the writing, making The Illusion of Separateness compelling to read even though it portrays events that are breathtakingly sad. I felt a warmth and empathy towards the characters and wanted to continue reading to hear their stories. This novel succeeds in drawing together the seemingly unrelated strands of different countries, characters and timescales weaving them into a moving tale that enriches the reader and gives hope for the survival of the human spirit.

Borrow The Illusion of Separateness from Cambridgeshire Libraries, Norfolk Libraries or Suffolk Libraries.

 


Review by Joy Travers

Joy has recently retired from working in Cambridgeshire Libraries after a period of over 20 years service. At present she is using her newfound freedom to travel and enjoy having the time to walk, keep fit, socialise and attend live music events. Brave New Reads has been a stimulating and interesting way of returning to the library as a reader, rather than a librarian.

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