This is an intricately woven tale of a literature professor (David Zimmer) who’s life has fallen apart through the death of his wife and children in an air accident. In an attempt to heal his wounds he immerses himself in the work of Hector Mann, a silent movie star from the golden age of cinema. The story unfolds as Zimmer receives a letter out of the blue from someone purporting to be the wife of this long dead star.
Three stories unfold in intricate detail – the story of Zimmer seeking out the truth behind the letters he receives, the story of the films of Hector Mann and the story of Mann’s life after his disappearance. The invention that Auster shows in weaving together this story is impressive. Mixing together the 3 stories with fictional criticism of the films that make up the background of the story makes quite a compelling read.
If I’m to be honest I’m not sure what to think about this book. I found it easy to read and inoffensive, but… It attempts to be an intelligent novel but the metaphors are forced and the carefully formed parallels between the stories get a little wearing as the book moves on.
All in all it’s a good holiday read – I’d devour this on the beach without a second thought. What it isn’t is challenging, which I’m afraid is what I like…