Sunday, March 27, 2011

Review: The Illumination

This book has an intriguing concept: it looks at life in a world in which pain emits light. The execution of this idea, however, leaves something to be desired.

The book follows six people, tied together by a book full of love notes, which passes into each of their hands. They come from all walks of life: a homeless man, a young author, an abused child, a widower. The book is actually much more about the notebook full of love notes than about the illumination of pain. This is one of my most significant criticisms of the book. If everyone's pain began emitting light, the consequences would be significant. No one would be able to hide their physical ailments. Yet, Brockmeier doesn't explore the effects of the illumination, it is merely background for the stories about the love notes.

I was never as taken with the the love notes as were the people in the book. The concept of the book of love notes seemed trite: one note written every day in the form of "I love when you..." That sounds like the sort of thing that newlyweds might do, and which would make everyone else gag. The idea of peering into the most intimate details of a person's life is interesting, but the book of "I love yous" just did not do that for me.

This book is also heavily laden with human misery. The misery never seemed to be abated; reading it was sometimes like constantly picking a scab off a wound. Ultimately I see this book as an opportunity missed.

Kevin Brockmeier, The Illumination (Pantheon, 2011) ISBN: 0375425314

1 comment:

Melwyk said...

Sounds like I can avoid this, as I fear I'd have the same reaction as you did. I read his first book and was one of the only people I know of who really didn't like it. Oh well, plenty more books on the stack!