I’m being a little generous giving Sunset Park 7 out of 10. For a Paul Auster novel, it’s nothing special. The novel starts off strong, but about half way through it begins to peter out, mainly because he doesn’t focus on a single character’s story. Instead, every chapter is a character sketch of each person in the novel. Many of the chapters are vivid and compelling, but the parts are greater than the whole. It’s as if Auster began by telling the story of one central character, finished it and realized the story was only a hundred pages or so, then decided to reconstruct the story as a collection of character sketches so he could expand it into a novel-length story. That’s the impression I get.
The story is about four university type people, two men, two women, living in an abandoned house in New York City. The story takes place in 2008 during the first financial meltdown in the U.S. which some blame on the reckless military spending of George W. Bush’s government. Like he did with Man in the Dark, I think Auster is reflecting again on the tragic legacy of George W. Bush’s presidency. It’s not as direct this time around, but it’s not hard to spot when you think about it.
Sunset Park isn’t a bad novel. But overall it didn’t grab me like most of Auster’s have.