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Publisher's Summary

After losing his wife and two young sons in an airplane crash, professor David Zimmer spends his waking hours in a blur of alcoholic grief and self-pity. Then, watching television one night, he sees a clip from a lost film by the silent comedian Hector Mann. Zimmer soon finds himself embarking on a journey around the world to study the works of this mysterious figure who vanished from sight in 1929. Presumed dead for 60 years, Hector Mann was a comic genius who had flashed briefly across American movie screens, tantalizing the public with the promise of a brilliant future. Then, just as the silent era came to an end, he walked out of his house one January morning and was never heard from again.
Zimmer's research leads him to write the first full-length study of Hector's films. Upon publication the following year, a letter turns up bearing a return address from New Mexico, supposedly written by Hector's wife. "Hector has read your book and would like to meet you. Are you interested in paying us a visit?" Is the letter a hoax, or is Hector Mann still alive? Torn between doubt and belief, Zimmer hesitates, until one night a strange woman appears on his doorstep and makes the decision from him, changing his life forever.
©2002 Paul Auster (P)2002 HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
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Critic Reviews

"One of Auster's best." (Publishers Weekly)
"Mesmerizing....Paul Auster's narration of his own book, which is mostly told in the first person, is a part of the story's fascination....He reads skillfully....To press the play button is to succumb." (AudioFile)
"Auster's signature fascination with the capriciousness of fate and adept use of the classic story-within-the-story motif are writ larger than ever in his brilliant, sage, and suspenseful tenth novel." (Booklist)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Gene on 10-05-04


I'm new to the Paul Auster universe, but this book won't be my last brush. There are many surprises here, but not the vulgar surprises of empty and meaningless complexity, something deeper and closer to the core of life's real mystery. We follow a fictitious actor from the silent era into several secret lives. If you are looking for a thriller, look elsewhere. If you are looking for a sober sort of entertainment mixed with despair, this is more like it.

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8 of 8 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By David A on 01-11-05

wonderful book, wonderful story

this was the first audio book that i listened to. i absolutely loved it and am looking forward to reading/listening to most of his work. there are two major strengths of this audio book. first, it is read by the author. for the audio books that i have listened to, the ones actually read by the author are so much richer and more expressive than those read by actors. the author, obviously, knew what s/he intened as the subtext of any particular passage and can convey that subtext through their voice. in addition, auster has an extremely pleasant voice and it was enjoyable to listen to him read it. the second strength of the book is the numerous intertwining plot-lines that are weaved together so well. in many ways, this is not simply a single story, but a richly told tapestry of stories spanning many years and several lives. to me, this made the book extremely enjoyable because each component of the overall plot was compelling, interesting, and well-told.

the only con of the book is that it had a bit of a downer for an ending, though this is just personal perference. the ending was not bad, but i was hoping for a happier ending.

in short, i cannot say enough to recommend this book. it will be well-worth your time and money.

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6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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