Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Review: WINTER JOURNAL, by Paul Auster

Winter Journal, by Paul Auster. Published 2012 by Henry Holt. Nonfiction. Memoir. Audiobook narrated by the author.

I've been a fan of author Paul Auster since college; after I read The New York Trilogy I was hooked for life. Which is not to say I've kept up with his fiction completely because I haven't but every now and then I dip in to his work and always enjoy it. Naturally I was intrigued by his memoir and the good reviews it got. And it did not disappoint.

Auster tells the story of his life (so far) in the second person- "you," which was alarming at first but I settled into it quickly. If anything, and maybe particularly because I listened to the book, it was nice not to hear "I, I, I" over and over. Narrating it in the second person created an intimacy and an immediacy the first person could not, because it forced me as the listener/reader to place myself within the story.

And it's a very engaging story. For the first part of the book, Auster uses the many places he has lived as a framing device. We go with him from his parents' house to various apartments both in the United States and France, where he lived on and off for years, to his home with his first wife (unnamed in the text but she was Lydia Davis, the renowned author and translator), then his second (respected writer Siri Hustvedt), along with his two children. All this comes to an end with the death of his mother, clearly a central event in his life. After the death of his mother the narrative loosens and becomes a series of anecdotes and stories about her, his father, his childhood and his later life with Hustvedt and the family they create.

I followed every word with interest. Auster tells his story beautifully, full of detail and character and personality. He also reads it very well; he's an excellent narrator of his own story. Sometimes I get a little nervous when I see "narrated by the author" on an audio book because narration is a particular skill that's sometimes best left to professional actors, but Auster carries it off with polish.  In the end Winter Journal is a very moving and engaging meditation on life, love, family and coming to the end of life. For memoir and biography fans, and fans of Auster, I can't recommend it highly enough.

Rating: BUY

FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review.