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The Book of Illusions
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1001 book reviews > The Book of Illusions by Paul Auster

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Diane  | 2051 comments Rating: 3.5 Stars
Read: July 2016

This is the third book of Paul Auster's books I have read from the list (he has several). This is an example of a really well-written book about a dull subject matter. Or at least, I thought so, anyway. The book is a story within a story. It is narrated by a writer who has recently lost his wife and children in a tragic accident. He watches silent movies to escape his sadness and becomes obsessed with finding out about an obscure filmmaker who mysteriously disappeared just as his career was beginning to take off. His quest takes him across the country to solve the mystery.

The parts about the narrator's own life are very interesting. I was not as interested in the story about the lost filmmaker and didn't really find him to be a very likable character. I found the same true about the people the narrator encounters to help him solve the mystery. I do, however, really enjoy Auster's writing style.

Jamie Barringer (Ravenmount) (ravenmount) | 480 comments This is a book about a man who survives the death of his family and spends a long time afterward falling apart. Some vestige of self preservation leads him to a project, watching all the old films of a particular silent-film actor Hector Mann, in the 1980s when such a project really would require travelling around the world to visit every film archive location and while most such archives still had the funding and space to maintain their collections. After a while he starts working on a book about the actor, and Auster's novel wanders off into a biography on the actor. When the novel returns to the main character, he is offered a chance to meet the actor, who is not in fact dead, but simply disappeared into a secret life. After being a complete asshole and nearly losing this opportunity entirely, he is forced at gunpoint, more or less, to go and meet the actor before the actor dies.

I suppose I liked this book well enough, at least to the extent that I was still engaged in the story by the end of the audiobook, always a good sign. I hated the main character, David, and had very little sympathy for him- why is it that middle-aged men in literature get away with being such assholes when dealing with grief, while they expect everyone around them, but especially women, to take care of them and excuse them all their awful behavior? (This is the second literary-fiction novel I've read this year on the theme of middle-aged men grieving the loss of close family, and that other fiction man was just as bad.) So, obviously, I didn't find myself relating well to David and his motivations and choices, and was constantly disappointed when he not only survived the book, but got away with all his crap. I suppose he learns a bit of a lesson about needing to snap out of it/grow up, right around when his girlfriend dies while he is once again so focused on himself that he fails to ask questions or listen when it is important. But the bit where he's improved, grown up, moved on, those bits are outside the scope of this novel.
This book is a bit hard to get into at first, launching as it does into a sort of literary criticism/literary biography style for so long early in the book, but the plot does come back eventually, and the biography bits are important to the overall story, even if they seem like irrelevant tangents at first. I wished there had been a bit of foreshadowing during the slow bits to help the reader keep the faith that the plot would return, though.
I gave this book 4 stars on Goodreads.

Amanda Dawn | 1190 comments This was one of the books I thought I would get through because the audio isn’t that long just to check it off, but I actually really enjoyed it and gave it 4 stars. At first I thought “oh no another rumination on sadness and the act of writing itself from an angsty middle age male narrator”, which is all true, but the language did suck me in, and I found the mystery surrounding lost silent film start Hector Mann to be really interesting and I did enjoy keeping on listening to find out how his mystery unraveled. I also liked how the book explored how the strangest smallest things can be enough sometimes to give our lives enough meaning to keep going. I don’t know that I loved how the ending unfolded though, so that’s why I went for 4 stars instead of 5.

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