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3.7 out of 5 stars
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3.7 out of 5 stars
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on 30 October 2013
This novel has certainly received some poor reviews since its publication but I think it to be one of Auster's best books, perhaps for no other reason than a lot of the subject matter resonated with me personally.

The overarching story (if we can call it that) follows the lives of four young people who, through various misfortunes, have found themselves having to squat a dilapidated house in Brooklyn. Each character is given a separate chapter in which we learn more about their backgrounds and how their lives are entwined.

It is told from the point of view of an omniscient narrator and there are large parts of exposition in which we are spoon-fed what each character is thinking and feeling and this makes it difficult for the reader to then bring their own thoughts and emotions to the text, which is usually one of joys of reading Auster.

The books deals with themes of poverty and wealth, love and hate, family and friends, inner peace and inner torment, property, space and what it means to be young and old.

I can understand why this book has had a mixed reception but overall `Sunset Park' for me is a mature, engrossing and insightful piece of work by a writer well into his craft.

Recommended.
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on 9 April 2013
This is a wonderfully stylish novel. The beauty of the prose does not interfere with the story. The continual use of lists and the multi narrator /subject add to the sense of humanity of the main protagonist. Miles Heller is 27 years old living in Florida having fled his family believing himself repsonsible for the death of his step brother . Following his relationship with a high school girl he heads back to New York to escape her sister's blackmail attempts . He becomes a part of a squatter community in a house in Sunset Park in New York.

Along the way we explore the work of PEN ,the temporary nature of material possessions , latent homosexuality, the fragile nature of love and loss.
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on 17 November 2010
After a recent run of good, but not quite great, novels Paul Auster returns with his strongest work in years. Beautifully and sparingly written, regular readers will enjoy the recurring Auster themes - broken relationships within families, the collection of seemingly junk items, isolation, another side of America. The characters live outside of the pages - in contract to some of his recent books. It's not the New York Trilogy or even The Music of Chance but there are strong signs here that Auster is almost back on the form that made him one of the most important writers of the 80s and 90s.
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"Sunset Park," is the sixteenth novel by writing hero and native New Yorker/Brooklyn resident Paul Auster, who most recently published Invisible. He here narrates his novel himself, in a voice that is not a professional actor's, quavers a bit, and certainly indicates his New York origins. It's an interesting, appropriate way to absorb his latest story, though I must say I found the prospect of seven CD's overwhelming.

We meet New York native Miles Heller during the great recession of 2008, as he "trashes" out south Florida homes foreclosed on angry people. He promptly falls in love with an orphaned, beautiful, underage Cuban girl, Pilar Sanchez. His presence in her kid sister's life angers Angela, her oldest sister, at age 25, who has more or less taken on the responsibility for the three younger girls, Pilar, Teresa, and Maria. So Miles flees to Brooklyn and moves in with a group of twenty-somethings squatting in the borough's Sunset Park neighborhood, in an anomalous little wooden house, across Fourth Avenue from the massive, well-known Green-Wood Cemetery, where many a famous soul - including Montgomery Clift --has found his/her final resting place. At any rate, once Miles arrives in Brooklyn, the book starts taking a broader view of his world, taking in the lives of his new roommates--among them Bing, "the champion of discontent," who runs the Hospital for Broken Things in adjoining Park Slope, where he mends superannuated things. We also meet Ellen Brice, an emotionally damaged would-be artist and unsuccessful local real estate saleswoman. And Ellen's old college roommate, Alice Bergstrom, a tall, big-boned Scandinavian girl from Wisconsin, part-time PEN employee, and graduate student at New York's Columbia University, in straitened circumstances as she tries to write her thesis. Finally, there's Jake Baum, Alice's boyfriend, who only visits, as he struggles to become a writer, and discontentedly teaches in La Guardia Community College, in New York's borough of Queens.

Miles, we are told, has been estranged from his father, mother and stepmother for seven years, as he dropped out of Brown University, and dropped out of their known world, probably because of guilt he feels at having caused the accidental death of his stepbrother Ben. We then meet Miles's estranged father, Morris, who is trying to find/reconnect with Miles, save his own marriage and his small but respected independent publishing company. We also meet Miles's mother, the successful actress of stage and screen, Mary-Lee Swann, and her third husband, Korngold, a Hollywood producer of independent films. And we meet Miles's stepmother, the mother of his dead stepbrother, an English professor, Willa Parks. The book also looks sidewise at recent politics, current events, presidents, and wars, and considers Vietnam, baseball trivia, the WWII coming-home film The Best Years of Our Lives.

I had no idea where "Sunset Park" was going and no idea where it was when it got there, but the going was pleasant enough, Auster is a musical, flexible writer with a sense of humor never far beneath the surface. In addition to INVISIBLE, he has published the best selling Man in the Dark,The Book of Illusions, and The New York Trilogy: "City of Glass", "Ghosts" and "Locked Room". He has won many awards. He lives in Brooklyn, but is not quite so knowledgeable about Sunset Park, my husband's home turf, as some might think. Nevertheless, the book did remind me of pleasant memories, riding the Fourth Avenue bus from Brooklyn Heights to Sunset Park, past the lovely Green-Wood Cemetery. It's an entertaining enough trip.
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on 30 January 2011
This novel was a local book club choice and is the first time I have read Paul Auster. I found the book a fantastic read that I would recommend to others. The author has several quirks (such as sentences that run for 1.5 pages) but in the context used it proved to be a really effective device. One of my fellow book club members did comment that the ending seemed rather abrupt, almost as if the book had run its alloted number of pages and then was closed quickly, but that didn't spoil it for me, it just gave me greater reign to imagine what might have happened next.
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on 15 September 2011
I read an interview with Paul Auster shortly after the release of Sunset Park,and he intimated that maybe writing wasn't as important to him as it use to be,and that he didn't know if he would write anymore.This book for me highlights that attitude.I found this slow,dull and ultimately pointless.The characters were very two dimensional and I just didn't care about any of it.It seems as though he just chucked in a couple of life changing events that shaped the protaganists life and filled in the gaps.It was almost like reading someone trying to copy Auster. I loved "Invisible", I though that was typical Auster class.But this left me feeling let down and a bit pissed off to be honest.Lazy.I hope his best years aren't behind him.Come on Paul give us something worthy of your name.
Having said all that,I'd imagine people new to Auster may find this ok,fair enough, but if you're one of them, do me a favour and pick up New York Trilogy and compare.There is no comparison.It's two different writers.One full of ideas, the other who can't be bothered anymore.
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VINE VOICEon 29 November 2010
I find Paul Auster's writing highly readable and thought-provoking but for me, not everything he does entirely works. So it is with "Sunset Park", ostensibly a book about how the global economic crisis of 2008 impacts a set of characters squatting in a dilapidated building in the area of New York that gives the book its title, although really the focus is less on finances and economics and more on relationships - romances, sexual encounters, family interactions and friendship.

I raced through this novel as Auster's prose held my attention, even if at times his subjects - e.g. erotic drawings, baseball, the father-son dynamic - were not ones that really spoke to me. Some readers may have an issue with the less than structured narrative, jumps in perspective and the nature of the denouement, but my real criticism of the book would be of its characters. Too many are introduced and a number are insufficiently developed, rendering them unconvincing. Father and son Morris and Miles Heller ring true, together with Miles's actress mother, but Ellen and particularly Alice, the female contingent at the Sunset Park house, are not particularly well-drawn. Personally I didn't really buy the Bing character at all. And whilst Miles leaves an impression on the reader, for me it was hard to see why everyone around him warmed to him so much and wanted his approval; that didn't really strike a real chord with me, either.

Having made criticisms of the characterisation, I'll return to the engaging writing as a good reason to pick this book up, although it doesn't show Auster at his most imaginative, experimental or original, which means longstanding fans might find it one of his lesser works and those new to his novels might want to start elsewhere. If you are looking for a compelling read with some interesting stylistic flourishes and a literary novel that keeps you turning the pages, however, this might not be a bad bet.
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VINE VOICEon 5 January 2011
Count me in as a long-time follower of Paul Auster's work, even if somewhat browned off (being polite here) by the post-modern jiggery-pokery of 'Travels in the Scriptorium' and 'Man in the Dark'. Disappointing therefore, to find little in Auster's latest novel 'Sunset Park' that would signal the return to form for Auster that someone like myself (who regarded Auster as a favourite author) would love to see. Part of the 'old' Auster appeal for me is that there's no guessing where a Paul Auster novel will take you. You may start off in New York as happens in 'Moon Palace' my favourite Auster novel to-date, and incredibly, find yourself transported in the blink of an eye to the American West. Another novel, 'Mr. Vertigo', whisks you off on a magical tour across the USA. You never knew where you would end up with Auster. Count me in for more of that 'old' Auster of his younger days!

In 'Sunset Park', Auster offers insights into writing and publishing and makes some pertinent comments on the state of present-day America and its ongoing overseas misadventures ("a sick destructive monster") but count me out of all the trivia on baseball and the arty stuff on the film 'The Best Years of Our Lives'. Ditto for all the bits on erotic drawings; and Auster's stylistic touch of using lists and then more lists (IMO) is another annoyance.

The intriguing situation presented in 'Sunset Park' involving the occupation of an abandoned house in New York City by four twenty-something squatters Miles, Bing, Alice and Ellen - each in turn taking their place on centre stage as Auster switches the focus of the narrative from one to the other, relating the story through their eyes - looks promising, creates anticipation of.... struggle?... strife?... confrontation perhaps? - a situation that begs the kind of imaginative treatment at which Auster has excelled in earlier novels such as 'The Music of Chance', 'The Book of Illusions' and 'The New York Trilogy'. Given the set-up, I had hoped a story with 'fire in its belly' would ignite from the squatters' illegal occupation. Yet Auster makes little of the dramatic potential of the situation and the disappointing end result (IMO) is a busload of pedestrian characters plodding through a lacklustre plot where nothing much happens that isn't expected, where there's no real drama in the interaction of the four squatters sufficient to yoke this reader's attention to the narrative. I soldiered on manfully to the end but in the end found myself starting to gloss over pages as my interest in the proceedings waned. Nope, not one of the 'select few' Auster novels I would run through smoke to save from a fire. On this one count me out! Comment | Permalink
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on 14 February 2011
I would characterise myself as a die hard Paul Auster fan, I have read everything he has ever written. Unfortunately I have found his recent works haven't left me quite as satisfied as his classics such as New York Trilogy and Oracle Night. His prose is still utterly compelling and I find that from the first page I am drawn in and want to read more. The substance of works such as this one is however somewhat lacking. I agree with an earlier critic that the characters weren't sufficiently developed or compelling, that there were too many and that the focus of the book was a little confused. And so, I reached the end with a sigh of disappointment, glad to have read the book but not happy with the emptiness it left me with. I will ofcourse buy his next work and probably the one after that as soon as is it published, but (and I hate to say this) my admiration for Mr. Auster may be on the wane.
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on 28 June 2011
Austerphiles who've struggled with his dalliances with magical realism, animal narrators and general tricksy set-ups and MacGuffins will welcome Sunset Park. It's a very understated, although structurally complex, look at family relationships and friendships. It's back to the stuff about mortality and the dignity and heroism of getting through life that made The Invention of Solitude so strong.

The characterisation is somewhat slight, a consequence of the interwoven narratives following a number of individuals, but this makes for an affecting and deft lightness of touch around "big" issues (fratricide for one).

It's the mature work of a writer who knows that he can do it
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