The Brooklyn Follies by Paul Auster — a review

10 August 2007

This is definitely the best Paul Auster I have read. I have always been intrigued by his novels but found that they start well but quickly fall to pieces: the City Of Glass, Mr Vertigo, the Music Of Chance being the ones I have tried. The Brooklyn Follies though engages throughout: it has the classic Auster sense of the absurd and the existential by also really builds up a believable picture of some loveable eccentric. The main character, an ex-insurance salesman, rents a room in Brooklyn in order to die there. Co-incidentally, he bumps into his favourite nephew, Tom, who he has lost touch with. Tom is the most poignantly drawn character: a successful English graduate who ‘loses it’ by over-eating and sliding into a series of meaningless jobs such as driving a taxi. He winds up working in an antique book store and dreaming about the woman who lives opposite. Meeting his uncle again prompts an inspiring renewal for both men.

I was visiting my in-laws in New York while I read this novel and I know Brooklyn well now. I loved reading it there; the smell of the streets, their beauty and eccentricity really comes off the pages.

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