Sunset Park by Paul Auster

by |October 18, 2010

A review by Allen and Unwin’s own guru, Luke Frost.

A brilliant, insightful work by Paul Auster, which will appeal to both the firm believers in all that the author does, and those that love his more complete novels, like The Brooklyn Follies.

Following the troubled lives of several people squatting in a dilapidated house in New York, Auster crafts a gripping narrative out of the tangled shreds of their life stories.
Miles Heller is the central character, a young man beset by the demons of a tragic mistake he made as a teenager, who has cut himself off from his family and career. His only redemption is the young love of his life, a romance that is forbidden and fraught with danger. His father teeters on the brink of decline, his business and his marriage faltering. His housemates each have their own issues and demons, but are brought together into an environment of cautious hope and nurture in the unlikely squat in which they live – a bastion of hope that may be snatched away by the authorities at any time.

Miles and the damaged characters that surround him are dealt a heavy hand by the author, but treated with such an immense depth of humanity that they seem drawn to hope and redemption throughout.

As usual, Paul Auster proves himself to be a mind of frightening intelligence, warmth and compassion, and his wit and wisdom pervade all aspects of this charming and captivating novel.  Sunset Park will definitely be remembered as one of his great works.

The official line: A compelling story of love and forgiveness, from the bestselling author of Invisible and The Brooklyn Follies.

In the sprawling flatlands of Florida, 28-year-old Miles is photographing the last lingering traces of families who have abandoned their houses due to debt or foreclosure.

Miles is haunted by guilt for having inadvertently caused the death of his step-brother, a situation that caused him to flee his father and step-mother in New York 7 years ago.

What keeps him in Florida is his relationship with a teenage high-school girl, Pilar, but when her family threatens to expose their relationship, Miles decides to protect Pilar by going back to Brooklyn, where he settles in a squat to prepare himself to face the inevitable confrontation with his father that he has been avoiding for years.

Pulsing with the energy of Auster’s previous novel, Invisible, Sunset Park is as mythic as it is contemporary, as in love with baseball as it is with literature. It is above all, a story about love and forgiveness – not only among men and women, but also between fathers and sons.

To read and excerpt of Sunset Park – click here.

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About the Contributor

While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. ​Now, as the Director of Books at booktopia.com.au, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection. His novel, The Girl on the Page, will be published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.

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