Customer Review

23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Vivid, expertly written, compelling, for the mind's eye, October 4, 2002
This review is from: The Book of Illusions: A Novel (Hardcover)
After reading a few of the other reviews, I feel somewhat inadequate to render my opinion. I know I won't come close to delving into the deeper meanings and darker shades of Paul Auster's book -- which is odd for me because I usually analyze things to death. But I'd like to describe what the book -- at face value -- meant to me.
To start with, with The Book of Illusions I turned off my mind and just enjoyed what I can only describe as a novel with more detail, believability, and fictional reality than I have ever read.
"Fictional reality" is probably a good term for it, too. Fictional reality is the currency with which this exceptional book conducts its business -- and in a manner so believable I began to question if this was fiction at all. (Shades of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil!)
Did Hector Mann ever really exist? No, he didn't. But you wouldn't know that by reading Paul Auster's book. Auster paints such a vivid picture of the silent-era movie star and his life that I often wondered to myself if the entire book was based partly on fact, and merely cleverly veiled. (Just to make sure, I checked the Internet Movie Database under the name "Hector Mann." No precise listing came up under any cateogry.)
I have never seen such rich detail about a fictional person's life! It's astounding to me that the films the book's main character, David Zimmer, describes in painstaking detail never really existed. Dialog, facial expressions, plots, the names of other actors, the names of directors and producers, and the descriptions of the era in which the films were released (the late '20s) are all there in black and white. (No pun intended.)
Yet the films were really only "seen" by one person -- author Paul Auster!
What that tells me is Paul Auster has an imagination to rival any sci-fi/fantasy author one could name. He saw in his mind movies that didn't exist, and then had the talent to capture what he saw on paper for us to read.
Other reviewers have already detailed the plot. So I won't go into that. I'll just say it's a fairly simple one, really. Nothing earthshattering there. No new ground broken. But Auster takes what could have been the latest Nicholas Sparks novel (and I have nothing against Nicholas Sparks; The Notebook moved me deeply...even changed my life) and infuses it with uncommon three dimensionality.
I couldn't put this book down. And I'm not likely to ever forget it. If you like intelligent, compelling novels that (a) don't require a lot of thought to enjoy, or -- paradoxically -- (b) require a lot of though to enjoy, The Book of Illusions will fill the bill nicely.
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