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Wednesday, May 29, 2013 8:19 am
Serendipity in the Stacks #109: Book of Illusions
Posted by: Kaite Stover

2013_mystery-month-buttonI’ve been looking for an opportunity to write about this book. It’s one of my favorites and I never pass up an opportunity to talk about it. And it’s great in audio, too.

The most compelling element of The Book of Illusions by Paul Auster, to me, is the story.  It hinges on a letter supposedly sent from a man who disappeared in 1929.

Professor David Zimmer suffers the most horrific of tragedies. He loses his wife and two sons in a plane crash. Zimmer is paralyzed with grief (which Auster describes in the most heartbreakingly accurate detail). Months later he is jerked back to the world of the living after viewing a documentary about Hollywood’s most influential silent film comedians and laughing at the genius comedic antics of Hector Mann.bookofillusions

Zimmer finds his voice speaking for a man who never had the chance to record his own on film. After writing a critically acclaimed book on the films of Hector Mann, Zimmer receives a letter from a woman asking if Zimmer would like to discuss his book with Hector Mann.

Intrigued, Zimmer ponders the situation until one night when a mysterious woman appears at Zimmer’s home to request he seriously entertain the notion of visiting Hector Mann. Zimmer refuses and the woman, very politely, strongly suggests Zimmer change his mind and uses a gun to support her point.

This is only the tip of the book’s fascinating iceberg of film, culture, death, legacy, and atonement. Book groups wanting a literary mystery with some historical elements will be delighted with this suspenseful, complex, precisely written novel.



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