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VINE VOICEon 25 September 2006
This is probably the most light-hearted of all Auster's novels, and yet it still begins with a line haunted by darkness and despair: "I was looking for a quiet place to die. Someone recommended Brooklyn....". Absolutely nobody can do those attention grabbing opening lines quite as well as Paul Auster.

Nathan Glass, retired from work, separated from his wife and now retreating from life itself, returns to the area in which he spent the first few years of his existence, looking for nothing more than a quiet time and a few peaceful years before death. Instead he finds himself trying to drag relatives and friends from the very same slough of despond into which he himself has descended. He meets up with his nephew, a once brilliant scholar who has since let himself go, and who spends most of his waking hours dreaming of the Beautiful Perfect Mother (a stunningly attractive unobtainable woman with two children whom he walks past on the way to work every morning), and Harry Brightman, a colourful 'con-man with a heart' who owns a local secondhand bookstore. Later in the novel a young girl appears, Lucy, who refuses to speak but who gives everyone a renewed purpose in life and a focus that drags them away from their own morbid introspection.

If I'm making this sound a dark and gloomy book then I couldn't be further from the truth. It's funny, tender, involving and ultimately life-affirming: look up from your own problems and concerns, look around and take an interest in the people around you, and suddenly you'll find all sorts of beautiful patterns and relationships developing in life. As usual with Auster there are plenty of colouful characters: Honey Chowder, the blousy, bright and fun daughter of a hotel owner; Rufus the transvestite drag act; Nancy the perfect beauty whose tastes don't quite run to the conventional, and David Minor, a religious fanatic who, ultimately, does the right thing in spite of all the odds.

The Brooklyn Follies is, if you like, Auster-lite. If you think you'd prefer the darker works then try The New York Trilogy or Oracle Night, but all of Auster's work is worth reading and in the pages of The Brooklyn Follies you will meet people who will stay with you, and you will come out of it with a renewed faith in mankind. Give it a go. Auster is one of the best writers out there.
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on 26 October 2005
The Brooklyn Follies is ultimately an optimistic novel, which makes it quite different from the dark early work which made me an Auster fan. Sure, there is sadness and despair, but they are defeated in the end - all but one of the characters manages to regain their lives and to find a kind of happiness. (The one who doesn't dies, but his death is the catalyst for others' redemption.) Auster's native Brooklyn is painted with an affection which manages not to be sentimental, and the characters, despite their quirks and weaknesses, are likeable because they are human and because they can change for the better. The book advocates community and humanity as positive forces. It ends minutes before the attack on the World Trade Centre and one is left with the strong feeling that even this awful event will not undo the transformations and renewed lives we have just read about. New Yorkers (and indeed Americans generally) refused to be cowed by 9/11 and perhaps this book tells us why - because beneath the grime of politics and commerce lies something altogether more worthwhile that can perhaps change America for the better.
I liked The Brooklyn Follies, but not for the same reasons that I liked The New York Trilogy or Moon Palace or The Book of Illusions. It's a gentler novel than any of those, without the hard edge, without the dark, slightly surreal veil. Read it to cheer yourself up, or to inspire you to re-engage with the world. It's a book to be enjoyed, so enjoy it.
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on 10 January 2007
Every so often, an author writes a book that touches you deep down inside. They find a note that just sets off a whole torrent of emotion in you. Whether Auster intended to do this for his readers here, but he has the rare honour of having acheived it for me twice - once in his seminal New York Trilogy, and now again in The Brooklyn Follies.

Without wanting to confuse people by completely contradicting the other reviewers here, the character rendition in this book is exemplary. You get a feel for the community that exists around the narrator and his nephew that many people in today's world rarely feel - and you come away from the book wanting to know more about everyone that you met there.

Whereas the New York Trilogy was dark, disturbing and explored the meaning of identity within oneself, The Brooklyn Follies explores how our relationships with others defines our identity beyond what our perceptions of ourselves may be. It does so in a light hearted series of mini-essays which unfold as the characters live out their lives.

The other thing which really stood out for me was the way that it captured life in New York. Not the mythical, movie-and-sitcom New York that the mainstream media pumps you with daily, but the real, plain, ordinary New York that hides beneath the hype, one which you need to have lived or worked there to truly experience (until now!).

Fabulous work, Mr Auster. An entertaining, light hearted journey through the lives of the unsung heroes of one of the world's most famous cities. A remarkable achievement.
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on 5 March 2006
Just when you think he's written his best novel yet Paul Auster manages to top his previous effort.This tale differs quite a bit from his recent work as he abandons the elements of mystery and intrigue and goes for all out human drama - and boy what a drama is is.It's a pretty straight forward tale of a sixty something loner who has pretty much given up on life but a chance move to Brooklyn changes everything for the better.The narrative starts slowly as Auster masterfully adds flesh to the bones of all the characters but also,as the story progresses,the characters reveal more and more of themselves to the reader and there are many many surprises along the way.Auster's real skill is his genius with words and his ability to create such a rich tapestry of life but told in such a simplistic way that you can often relate the story to your own life.The moral of the story is that we all possess that thing called human spirit but perhaps lose sight of it in our daily lives but this book really is about that "human spirit" and how resiliant we really all are and how you can gain strength, inspiration and pleasure from the simplest things in life.
An enjoyable and uplifting read.Buy it now and put yourself in the hands of one of today's very best contemporary writers.
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on 13 April 2008
It was my third book by Auster and I absolutely loved it. It's vibrant, the language is funny and moving. I loved the literary stories within about Kafka, Poe and Thoreau and many others. It's an optimistic novel about people who want to make their lives worthwile. It shows the beauty of every day and it did make me feel great.
Read it and enjoy!
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on 28 March 2016
This is not Auster's best, but I love his writing so much that I will never give it anything less than 5 stars. 'The Brooklyn Follies' is very uncharacteristic of the edgy, dark themes Auster usually deals with. I'm sure another reviewer has already said it: it's Auster lite. Compared to the depth and seriousness of his usual stuff, this novel is indeed best considered as a little indulgent folly. Maybe Paul just wanted to have a giggle with us, show us that he can do fluffy, mildly romantic, and highly unlikely. The conveniently tidy ending was, I thought, forced and particularly un-serious and unconvincing. But, as I said, never less than 5 stars from me no matter what. Brooklyn itself is the novel's true main character, and Auster's genius sure shines here; he makes Brooklyn come to crazy, complicated, colourful life.

If you are new to this extraordinary writer, read 'The Brooklyn Follies' but be prepared to be shocked and awed when you move on to his other books, like, say,The Music of Chance which is a true masterpiece.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 10 November 2011
"The Brooklyn Follies" reminds me what a skilful wordsmith Paul Auster is: he can capture startling insights, create intriguing characters and describe a beautiful spring day with memorable originality.

Page after page is a pleasure to read until some unconvincing note trips the reader up.

This is the gently rambling tale of the sixty-year old Nathan, at a loose end after surviving a cancer scare, who decides to pass the time compiling "The Book of Human Folly", a collection of every "blunder, ....... embarrassment , every idiocy, every foible and inane act" of his own and others' lives. This is an opportunity for Auster both to exercise his fertile imagination, and to regale us with the lists of facts that he likes to record.

I enjoyed the first part of the book in which Nathan, revelling in his rediscovery of the diverse street life of Brooklyn, renews contact with Tom, the brilliant young nephew who has lost his way in life, and gets to know his flamboyant bookshop employer Harry who is not all that he seems, and who in due course reveals a risky plot to make himself rich. I liked their "deep", but humorous philosophical discussions, in one chapter written like a play.

With the arrival of Nathan's great-niece Lucy, pretending to be mute, I felt the plot begin to get ragged. Some opportunities for drama are missed, plotlines are resolved too quickly, or become frankly implausible, and I agree with reviewers who think Auster goes in for far too much "telling" rather than "showing". It's also just occurred to me that he may not be very good at portraying convincing female characters. I have come to the conclusion that he is not very interested in structuring a plot, creating suspense or working towards a grand denouement - he just loves playing with words and using them to create interesting situations or explore ideas as the fancy takes him, so that the parts are greater than the whole.

I appreciated his swipes at Bush Junior and manipulative American preachers. I was not so keen on the frequent lapses into a corny, wisecracking tone, perhaps meant to convey Nathan's New York background.

This seems an intentionally lighthearted book, a kind of homage to Brooklyn, in which the follies of the characters rival the contents of Nathan's unfinished book, but Auster can never totally dispense with the dark undercurrents of reflection on the meaning of life.
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on 13 January 2006
I really enjoyed the Brooklyn Follies.
It is a sympathetic and generous book. I imagine that fans of earlier Auster might find it sentimental, even sappy, but I don't think that's a bad thing. There's a refreshing honesty to the novel and it's more realistic than his usual psychological fare (although perhaps not as good!).
I thought some of the characters were weak. The sister's story is nonsense but it's all worth it for the relationship between the uncle and nephew.
I didn't mind the use of September 11th. It's a suitable way of illustrating the general idea of the book - to relax, take a deep breath, accept you make mistakes and try to enjoy life.
Throughly recommended.
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on 19 April 2007
Of all the books I read last year this is the one I keep coming back to. Auster weaves a great story about flawed people, some despairing and some finding hope. I hear Auster can be quite a difficult read but that is not the case with this book. It is a great story that I found hard to put down. I picked this book up while traveling in Denmark. I started reading it on the train to Kastrup airport, continued reading it while waiting for check-in and kept on reading while walking to the plane and did not put it down until I went to an event in the evening. I then picked it up and finished when I came back home. This is the first time I have done that in close to a decade. It is a moving story, funny, exciting and dramatic. It is the best novel I have read in years. It surpasses Sebastian Barry's A Long Long Way wich up until reading this book was my favorite of the last few years, because of it's heart and Barry's great writing style and talent to make us feel for his characters.

The theme in The Brooklyn Follies is somewhat similar to Philip Roth's Everyman. While Everyman is dark The Brooklyn Follies has a lighter tone, more humour as well as a wealth of interesting characters.
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on 2 December 2011
I enjoyed letting the storytelling quality of this book just wash over me. The calm, measured, literary tone makes it sound as if you're listening to a wise old uncle reading aloud from his fascinating journal, just for you.
There's something so satisfying about stories of ordinary, ill-assorted people coming together in an unexpected way and making a life together, and this is how this book starts - following divorce, retirement, and a bout of lung cancer, fiftysomething Nathan moves back to Brooklyn to die. A chance meeting with his estranged nephew, who's also given up on life, leads to a series of unexpected events and a shot at redemption for both of them.
Sounds corny? That's what it is, I suppose: all that wisdom and serendipity does get a bit cloying at times, and the neat ending is completely shameless (as is the mention of 9/11), but I could forgive that in a book which is so beautifully written.
Unfortunately it lost me towards the end when two dramatic plots suddenly came from nowhere and set a completely different tone, taking the story into places I didn't expect. The mute child, Nathan's great niece who just turns up on the doorstep, didn't seem at all real, and her mother's story seemed part of a different book altogether. As did the tale of forgery and blackmail involving the old bookseller.
Perhaps the whole thing would have been better as a book of short stories, told by Nathan?
Still, I've never read a book that evoked a place and atmosphere better than this: how lovely it would be to read it sitting in Prospect Park, or in one of Nathan's diners.
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