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The Book of Illusionsby Paul Auster
A New York Times Notable Book
An ALA Book of the Year
Synopses & Reviews
Six months after losing his wife and two young sons in an airplane crash, Vermont professor David Zimmer spends his waking hours mired in a blur of alcoholic grief and self-pity. Then, watching television one night, he stumbles upon a clip from a lost film by silent comedian Hector Mann. Zimmers interest is piqued, and he soon finds himself embarking on a journey around the world to research a book on this mysterious figure, who vanished from sight in 1929 and has been presumed dead for sixty years.
When the book is published the following year, a letter turns up in Zimmers mailbox bearing a return address from a small town in New Mexico inviting him to meet Hector. Torn between doubt and belief, Zimmer hesitates, until one night a strange woman appears on his doorstep and makes the decision for him, changing his life forever.
The Book of Illusions is, in the words of Peter Carey, “suffused with warmth and illuminated by its narrators hard won wisdom. This artful and elegant novel may be Austers best ever.”
"[O]ne of his finest [novels]: an elegant meditation...and a thickly plotted succession of interlocking mysteries reminiscent of his highly praised New York Trilogy....
"Auster here makes the unbelievable completely credible, and his overall themes are very much of a piece with those of earlier works....Auster is a novelist of ideas who hasn't forgotten that his first duty is to tell a good story." Publishers Weekly
"The Book of Illusions is too allegorical to be emotionally affecting, and although it's perfectly readable, its prose is bland and undistinguished, its dialogue trite....And, like all Auster's novels, it makes its careful architecture just a little too evident." Brooke Allen, Atlantic Monthly (read the entire Atlantic review)
"[A] book with many pleasures, augmented by the muted grace of Auster's narrative voice....But The Book of Illusions doesn't quite reach the tautness of the New York Trilogy, in which every sentence feels ordained." D. T. Max, The New York Times Book Review
"[A]n eloquent, enigmatic, tremendously sad novel — a philosophical journey, a truly convincing love story, and a good old-fashioned mystery....Illusions is an arresting and captivating novel and certainly one of Auster's best." Adrienne Miller, Esquire
"The strange magic of Paul Auster's writing lies in the easy way he weaves inconsolable sadness and waste into an effervescent picaresque. His latest novel, The Book of Illusions, is a mystery filled with lives brutally disjointed by the violent deaths of loved ones and artistic oeuvres left unseen and unappreciated. Though it begins and ends with grief, it's more luminous than lugubrious....[T]he book becomes a whirl of rich, adventurous history and an intricate intellectual riddle....Wild and suspenseful, [the plot allows] Auster to revel in the rowdy, garish American underworld he painted so exuberantly in his 1994 showbiz rise-and-fall fairy-tale novel Mr. Vertigo, which this new book's most colorful moments recall. His wonderful pacing makes The Book of Illusions both meditative and thrilling, and while he strikes a single false note in the last few pages by making Zimmer's salvation a bit too pat, such a tiny flaw hardly mars this otherwise enchanting puzzle of a book." Michelle Goldberg, Salon.com
"Auster limns Mann's many-layered cinematic and earthly worlds in mesmerizing and voluptuous detail within an artful, poignantly metaphysical, and delectably Hitchcockian tale of mayhem, murder, and myriad illusions within illusions." Donna Seaman, Booklist
"Through all its dark and delightful twists and turns The Book of Illusions is suffused with warmth and illuminated by its narrator's hard-won wisdom. This artful and elegant novel may be Auster's best ever." Peter Carey, Booker Prize-winning author of True History of the Kelly Gang
"[A] purposely cool, uninvolving work, which mimics the alien, dream-like character of cinema....But the magic embedded at its heart seems no more than some dusty conjuring tricks brought down from the modernist attic." John Dugdale, Literary Review
"An enthralling new summit in Paul Auster's art." Jonathan Lethem, author of Motherless Brooklyn
"Paul Auster has been an unswerving voice no matter what form he chooses, no matter what tale he imagines and tells. A generous heart, always. A style on the high wire, always." Michael Ondaatje, author of Anil's Ghost and The English Patient
"[A] story of unspeakable grief told with virtuosic brilliance, which Auster finally brings safely to earth with a very human simplicity." Los Angeles Times
"[S]ome of Auster's best prose....Hector Mann may be Auster's finest creation....Jammed with incident, coincidence, plot twists and surprises, the novel is a gleaming storytelling machine." Paul Evans, Book Magazine
"A nearly flawless work...and the best argument among many that Auster will be remembered as one of the great writers of our time." San Francisco Chronicle
About the Author
Paul Auster’s previous novel, Timbuktu, was a national bestseller, as was I Thought My Father Was God, the NPR National Story Project anthology, which he edited. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. The Book of Illusions is his tenth novel.
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