Book Review: Sunset Park by Paul Auster (DNF)

Sunset Park by Paul Auster

I saw this book in a bookshop out on a table with new books, probably at the beginning of this year. It looked interesting, but so did about 11 of the 16 books that were spread out there. For me, it was an all or none thing. Buying all would be excessive so it became none.

Then I came across the book in the library last week, and I took it home.

I read it, but I didn’t finish it. I abandoned the book at page 75.

Sunset Park: What it is About

The book is about Miles Heller, a 28 year old college drop out who works for a company that removes property from vacated houses in order to clean up the houses for new tenants.

He falls in love with 16 year old Pilar and although they have to keep their relationship quiet because of her young age, she does move in with him, happy to escape the house she shared with her three sisters, as her parents died recently.

When Miles was 16, his stepbrother Bobby died in an accident where Miles was present, and Miles has never been sure whether it was accidental that Bobby died, or whether he (Miles) had subconsciously planned for this to happen. His life has been on hold ever since.

When someone threatens to report him to the police (because of his relationship with Pilar) he decides to take up the offer of a room in a shared house in New York, where his friend Bing is already living. So he leaves for New York.

Sunset Park: What I thought

No rating, as I didn’t get all that far with the book. In fact, I wouldn’t know how to rate this book.

I really enjoyed the beginning of the book, but as the story of Miles went on, I started to get bored. At some point Miles leaves Pilar to go to New York, and I couldn’t care less. That’s not a good sign. When a few pages after that, it turned out that Miles’ part was over, and we went on to the story of his friend Bing, I started to doubt that I wanted to continue.

I should say that I must have missed the page after the title page that said “Miles Heller”, otherwise I’d have realised that the whole book wouldn’t be about him (else his name wouldn’t be on the first part). So, I was a little put out that I now had to turn my attention to another person, that had appeared so far only in passing, and didn’t seem interesting at all.

If that was not enough, the part about Bing Nathan started in rather inaccessible writing. Like this:

He is the warrior of outrage, the champion of discontent, the militant debunker of contemporary life who dreams of  forging a new reality from the ruins of a failed world.

Erm, OK! That’s just the first sentence of a number of pages like this and while I like good literary writing, I don’t like it too literary, to the effect that I have no idea what I’m reading (it’s the reason I’m not good with poems either).

So, this clinched the deal for me: I had seen enough of this book! Next, please!

Rating: n/a

I got this book: from the library

I read this in: English, the original language

Number of pages: 309 (I read about 75 pages)

First published: 2010

Genre: literary fiction


About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

28 Responses to Book Review: Sunset Park by Paul Auster (DNF)

  1. Cindy says:

    Gosh, old Bing sure doesn’t come across as a happy camper!

  2. Nadine Nys says:

    I am sorry you didn’t like it, Judith, but I am going to try it anyway…

  3. Some of Auster´s stuff is brilliant, but I have also read things I didn´t ´get´ so he is not among the authors I must read.

  4. I don’t think I’ve ever known you abandon a book, Judith. I’m glad it’s not just me that does that 😉

    • Leeswammes says:

      Oh, yes, every now and then I abandon a book. It’s not very often and it doesn’t mean that the book that I do abandon is terribly “bad”, it means it’s not for me in some way and I’ve had enough! 🙂

  5. I have a hard time with this author. I did read this one, but at times it was a bit of a struggle.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Diane, I read one or two other books by him, that I did like (but it’s so long ago, I’m not quite sure which), this for me was a lot of struggle that I didn’t have the patience for. Good to hear I wasn’t the only one.

  6. I’ve only read two of Auster’s works, The Brooklyn Follies and Travels in the Scriptorium. The first one was quite enjoyable, but the second was WAY over my head. I don’t think I wasn’t able to ‘get’ the bigger message he was trying to send. I was looking forward to this one as a possible tie-breaker, but I think I’ll just leave this author alone.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Jenna, I haven’t read those two books you mention, but yes, maybe this is not the next Paul Auster you should try. I should mention that the first part of the book was fine, I had no trouble reading it, but then it became a bit too difficult for me.

  7. JoAnn says:

    I’ve been wanting to read Auster for a while now, but think I’ll start with a different book…

  8. Uniflame says:

    The title and synopsis seemed interesting, but I think I will stay clear of this one 😉

  9. Meg says:

    Eek! I don’t think this would be a read for me, either.

  10. Auster is one of my very, very few DNF authors. I picked up The New York Trilogy several years ago and abandoned it. Ick. Left a bad taste in my mouth.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Funny, isn’t it? Still there must be loads and loads of people who love this author. Well, the other books I read by him were OK, I’m sure!

  11. Leslie says:

    This would not be for me either. Too literary doesn’t work, nor does poetry for that matter.

    At least you weren’t too disappointed… it’s not like you waited for a copy of this book. I was eagerly anticipating How To Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe only to be totally annoyed that the book made no sense, for me anyway. I slogged through it hoping, hoping, hoping. But no, it got worse. And others loved it!

    • Leeswammes says:

      Leslie, I usually don’t have to wait for books at all or very long. Either they can’t be ordered/reserved from the library or I get them in a few days. Only very sometimes I have one or two people ahead of me in the queue.

      Such a pity your book wasn’t that great. The title sounds really good.

      • Leslie says:

        I meant waiting as in “wait to be published”. The book had great advance reviews.

      • Leeswammes says:

        Oh, I see!! Lots of people go on about waiting for books to become available in the library so I thought you meant that.

        Even worse when you’ve been waiting for a book to be published!

  12. Suzanne says:

    Just curious — do you think you would have stayed with the book longer if you had purchased it? I tend to be more patient with books I’ve paid for.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Suzanne, ouch, a raw nerve there! I was wondering the same and I don’t know the answer. If I pay full price for a book, I want to enjoy it to the full. I could imagine I’d put the book away with the idea of trying again later. I can’t remember not finishing a book I bought, but then it’s not so often that I don’t finish.

      Once I did have not-finished a book I got for review from a publisher (and reviewed it anyway). And those books always take priority in reading and reviewing. So I think the answer is: no, I would not have continued if I’d bought the book.

  13. Tes says:

    There are a lot of books I bought and I couldn’t finished them as I could find the connection with the story… I might have to stay away from this one, too 🙂

  14. Aths says:

    Aww, I was really hoping to read this one. The premise did sound good. I was recently reading a book that I thought was going to be about one particular person, but halfway through, person one was done and we were on person two. I was put out, so I know how you feel. It was there in the synopsis, but sometimes I just read the first paragraph, so I totally missed the second person thing.

    • Leeswammes says:

      So you feel the same way, Aths! I probably wouldn’t have liked the move onto the next person even if I knew it was coming, but in this case, it was totally unexpected and not… nice.

      You may like the book, though. I think it probably is a very good book, it’s just not one that I enjoyed.

  15. Pingback: Sunset Park by Paul Auster « Bibliojunkie

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