Book review – The Brooklyn Follies

The Brooklyn Follies (2006) is the first Paul Auster book that I’ve completed. This isn’t to say that my house is littered with half-read Auster books. The only other Auster book I’ve opened is The New York Trilogy, which, by all accounts, appears to be a little impenetrable. I thought therefore that I’d give him another go.

The Brooklyn Follies finds us in the company of the curmudgeonly Nathan Glass, a retiree and divorcee looking to eke out his remaining years in Brooklyn, where his family once resided. Glass bumps into his nephew, Tom Wood, who is working in a local bookstore – quite the departure from the Tom Wood Glass knew of old; a go-getting intellectual with a bright future ahead of him. The two pick up where they left off and Glass is introduced to Wood’s boss, Harry Brightman, an ex-fraudster with designs on one last throw of the dice. Almost by accident, Glass’s world is transformed as he makes new friends and meets estranged family members. Glass has also decided on a project; The Book of Human Folly, a collection of all the inane and embarrassing things that Glass has been party to.

It’s clear from the off that The Brooklyn Follies is quite a different book than The New York Trilogy. Where the NYT felt impenetrable and austere (no pun intended!), the Brooklyn Follies was warm and inviting (I breezed through the 300+ pages in a handful of days). Auster has a reputation for being a fine novelist and, as expected, the book was well written, with Auster creating a community of characters that you easily warm to and care about. The novel also feels believable, despite the fact that Glass is surrounded by a multiplicity of events, some of which are far from every day occurrences.

My only issue is with Glass himself. He arrived in Brooklyn ‘looking for a quiet place to die’ and not ‘giving a flying fuck about projects’. This is a far cry from the Glass that emerges. Albeit a welcome transformation, it’s a change that’s rather rapid in its emergence. Still, it’s a minor thing that doesn’t detract from the novel, which is full of characters that I’d happily spend more time with. Highly recommended.