I picked up 'The Illusion of Separateness" by Simon Van Booy for the Readathon (weeks ago now) and only got around to it the other week. I liked it but was not as swept away as some of the reviewers seem to have been by his writing. The book is made up of a series of interlocking stories, characters who have all had an impact on one another's lives. Although I really enjoyed it I did feel it was more like short stories than a novel, it lacked some element of drawing together.
I am just going to give you one quote, from my favourite story, of Danny and Mr Hugo. Mr Hugo's story is the most heart rending one of loss and searching for identity. I liked it because it captures the lonely person's need for companionship, his bond with his neighbour's son and the very particular kind of companionship that you get from being with a young child:
"Danny usually came after school. His mother didn't mind because she worked late. I made something for him to eat. Danny's favourite was fish fingers, beans, and American-style french fries. He took the french fries from the freezer, then arranged them on an oven tray. The fish fingers had to be cooked slowly or were cold in the middle. Danny watched television, laughing from time to time. I listened through the serving hatch and felt light, felt unafraid.
Then we ate together. A man and boy eating: I felt echoes from long ago. The knife and fork were too big for Danny. I thought of the knife. Remembered the knife. My father kept it on the mantelpiece. I should have buried it. Then Danny interrupts. Always more ketchup, Mr Hugo, always more brown sauce. He puts vinegar on his french fries, then on mine. I don't like vinegar, but it's too late and would just hurt his feelings. Danny always saved one fish finger for last. I never knew why.
I cleared up after he left. Sometimes I left the dinner plates until next morning. Beans hardened against the ceramic were almost impossible to remove, but I felt light, felt unafraid." (p.32)