Monday, January 24, 2011

Sunset Park; Paul Auster


Title: Sunset Park
Author: Paul Auster
Publication Year: 2010
Publisher: Macmillian Audio
Edition: Audio Book 
Reader: (Author)
Source: Amazon Vine
Date Completed: 1/23/2011
Setting:  Florida and New York
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Recommend: Yes

Sunset Park is a different type of story, and in some ways it felt more like an intense character study. Its central character is Miles Heller, age 28, an intelligent, but directionless, Brown University dropout, who has been estranged from his family for a number of years. Miles has been harboring guilt over his part in an accident which took the life of his step-brother, Bobby, and which has torn his family apart. Miles father owns a struggling  book publishing company in New York, his step-mother is an English professor, and his mother, an actress in the city. In Florida, Miles has been getting by odd jobs in Florida cleaning up foreclosed homes during the housing crisis, while trying to keep his relationship with Pilar, an under-aged teenager quiet.

Soon after tempers flare with the family of his girlfriend,  Miles hears from his old friend, Bing Nathan in New York. Miles boards a bus and heads back to Brooklyn.  Bing is a man who detests technology and runs a shop called "The Hospital of Broken Things", where forgotten things of the past, like broken manual typewriters, old radios etc. get repaired. When Bing invites Miles to become a squatter in an empty apartment in the Sunset park section of Brooklyn, he joins him along with two women: Alice Bergstrom, who works part-time while working on her dissertation, and Ellen Brice, a unsuccessful real-estate agent, obsessed with the human body, who wants to be an artist.

Like, "The Hospital for Broken Things", the characters in Sunset Part are a collection of "broken souls" struggling to find a place in this world, haunted in some way by their damaged past. At times the story seemed conveniently, contrived, and the narrative without direction, yet the characters  and their issues seemed very genuine. I thought the contemporary post-recession time frame was perfect as well. In the end, some things were left unresolved, leaving me with unanswered questions, and curious as to whether this was unintentional or whether Auster has a sequel in the works. The audio book was read by the author. It wasn't the best reading by far, but it did not turn me off to the book either. Not perfect, but still one you might wish to consider if you have enjoyed this author in the past.

23 comments:

  1. I am kind of curious about the premise of this book. I've been seeing it in all the bookstores I visited over the last month, enough so that I'm adding it to my TBR. I haven't read this author previously, but I'll be willing to try.

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  2. Interesting premise for a story/character study. Nice review, Diane!

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  3. I wonder if this would have been better if it had been read by someone else. It's a rare author who can do their book justice.

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  4. I just picked up my first Paul Auster: New York Trilogy. I also have been see in Sunset Park everywhere these days. Nice review!

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  5. I was wondering if I would see a review of this book around. I read a review of it shortly after it was publishe din the SMH and was intrigued by the review. It said that there were some good elements but that it didn't quite work as a while, seems like you might have felt the same?

    I have never read any Paul Auster, and would like to ,but I think I will try another Auster book first before I think about reading this one.

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  6. Read this book earlier this month and loved it.
    Though I agree with you about the ending being somewhat a cliff-hanger. My guess is that was the author's intention to leave off the story that way. You may read my review here:
    http://www.playinglibrarian.com/2011/01/review-sunset-park-novel-by-paul-auster.html

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  7. Paul Auster came to the university library where I work and read from this book. It definitely sounds very intriguing and I've always wanted to read Auster.

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  8. I like good characters and in lots of ways they are more important to me than the plot but I'm concerned that this might be a little too character heavy.

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  9. I liked this book, but also felt that it was directionless at times. I do love character studies, and this was a good one, which I also liked. What I really liked was the ending, because it forced me to make my own conclusions and it left me with a lot of questions. I think your review captured this book perfectly and I am glad to hear that you mostly liked it!

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  10. Hmmmmm, perhaps a sequel fur sure. Those unfinished items bug me a wee bit.

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  11. Love the sound of 'broken souls'. Haven't read any Auster yet. I know I should, I own a couple of his books. Will get on to this soon.

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  12. I have not read this author before but this sounds like an interesting story. Great review!

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  13. I have this one on my shelf, so I'm glad to hear you thought it was worthwhile.

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  14. I've never read this author. I really need to make a time in the year where I will listen to at least one book on audio!

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  15. Great review Diane! Auster is one of those authors I want try but haven't gotten around to.

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  16. I almost dare not read any book reviews lately - I have just sorted and re-stacked books and egads, have several dozen to read. Sigh.
    Yet I am intrigued.
    So, yes, will return and continue to scribble down book titles and jam the notes into my wallet for forays to the library and good old B&N.
    thanks for this and several of the others here that I've just caught up on!

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  17. I have yet to try Paul Auster – any recommendations for a newbie? Why wasn’t he a perfect reader? Lack of emotion? Too much emotion?

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  18. Alexandra, I found the author as reader voice to be kind of flat. I have read 3 books by this author, by none were thrilling, yet I keep going back because -- he is different in a good way, if that makes any sense.

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  19. I haven't heard about this novel, but I've been curious to read Auster. If I do read this one, I think I'll opt for print.

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  20. thanks for the review. I've been meaning to get to sunset park for a while. love me some paul auster :-)

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  21. I keep circling around this author but never reading him ... not sure why exactly.

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  22. I've yet to read any Auster so will probably read this at some point although I will most likely read one of his others first.

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