2007: 51. The Book of Illusions

“Everyone thought he was dead.  When my book about his films was published in 1988, Hector Mann had not been heard from in almost sixty years.  Except for a handful of historians and old-time movie buffs, few people seemed to know that he ever existed.”

The Book of Illusions, Paul Auster

Oh! What a grand book! I went to the library last Saturday for the first time in forever, and got this book, which I had jotted down on my to-be-read list and promptly forgotten all about (even including why I had put it on my list!).  But I did not let myself down, because this was an amazing book.  It had a great story, interesting characters, and enough going to write an English paper about, not just a blog post.

This book tells the story of David Zimmer, an English professor at a small Vermont college.  His wife and two sons are killed in a plane crash, and his life falls apart.  He spends six months slowly killing himself with alcohol and grief, thinking that his life is over.  Then one night he catches a glimpse of a silent film, and laughs for the first time since he heard the horrible news.  For lack of anything else to do, he decides to watch the rest of the films of the actor, Hector Mann.  This requires traveling to a number of film archives, and a year later, he has written and published the only book on this obscure forgotten star.  He thinks he has done with this task when he one day gets a letter, informing him that Mann is still alive and promising to explain the circumstances of Hector’s mysterious disappearance from Hollywood in 1929.

I don’t want to say more, because the plot is one of the charms of this book (Hector’s story is worth the price of entrance alone), but I loved this book.  There is so much going on, with repeating themes, and what makes narrative, and what it is to be a writer and creator, and oh my goodness it was great.  But most of all this book is about grief.  All the characters have lost someone and react in different ways, and in the end after going through all that he does, David finds away to survive his grief.  Others don’t.  Oh, its too hard to explain - read this book.

Recommended for:  People who enjoy books that have both story and substance; people interested in silent film; people who need something to turn to in times of loss that doesn’t offer platitudes but does offer some hope.

Date/Place Completed:  4/15/07; D.C.

Categories: Fiction; Library Book

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017