In The Country of Last Things – review

Oh, I could probably do with a bit of Catherine Cookson or something soon because for the last fortnight, I’ve only been reading how we’re all doomed. Paul Auster’s In the Country of Last Things was about as doomed as you can get really, but I flippiny loved it.

Anna Blume is in the country of last things which is a city – probably New York – in what seems to be post-apocalyptic times. There is no order in the streets, no laws to protect the weak, few places to live, little to eat, only back-breaking ways to make money, and widespread corruption. If you’re lucky enough not to die, you will sleep where your body stops for the day, and eat what you can afford on your tiny earnings. Life is about as hard as I imagine it, but you can always choose to kill yourself if it gets to much. There are even clubs to join to do so: the Runners (who run and run and run and run until their bodies just expire) are a popular choice for many.

Anna Blume is there to find her missing brother, William, and writes a letter about her experiences to an unnamed friend or family member. Her letter is the novel we read. We never find out what becomes of Anna, or her brother, but we get to see this harsh reality through her eyes. It’s not nice.

I find it hard to fault Auster, and I’m not about to do so now, but I did prefer the first third of this book to the remainder. In the first third, Auster (Anna) describes the city and its people wittily and satirically, and one can’t help but think that it might be quite intriguing to live there for a little while. For the remainder, Anna tells us of her struggle to survive and the people she met and loved along the way; it was interesting, but it wasn’t fun anymore. Perhaps this was intentional on Auster’s part because no one was happy there and we probably weren’t supposed to be happy reading it.

Don’t get me wrong – Auster’s a frickin’ genius, and I would recommend this book to anyone but I do wish he’d kept the satirical style he started out with. And I’m still a little worried about Anna Blume a week after reading her last words, but I’m sure he can’t really be blamed for that.

16 responses to “In The Country of Last Things – review

  1. Ooooo it sounds good! I think i might have to try this one!

    I’m reading “The Book of Lost Things” John Connelly and it’s pretty good…. a bit of a kids story for adults but it’s gripping and makes you use your imagination

  2. Thanks Pinky – Connelly’s could be one for me.

    You’ll really enjoy the Country of Last Things. It’s excellent stuff and easy to read. πŸ™‚

  3. There now, that’s perked up my afternoon! I love Auster, I really do. He unfailingly makes me care about situations and characters that I wouldn’t otherwise, and his style is so perfect that I wish he would write my internal monologues, I’d trust him with my brain!

    Just finished Leviathan a couple of weeks ago, must track down more after my current Brookmyre infatuation

  4. There now, that’s perked up my afternoon!

    Good! And you’re right. I really wish that Auster had kept his satirical tone throughout the book but I still absolutely loved it.

    I can’t find fault with the man at all!

  5. I just wanted to let you know that I came by earlier but didn’t comment. Sorry. I won’t let it happen again.

    I may also read this particular book after I’ve read the other dozen or so that I promised myself I’d read first. In fact, I have added it to my amazon wishlist.

  6. hehe! I recognise your IP, J, so never worry. You weren’t one of the ‘frequent visitors who I don’t know’ people at all.

    But it’s a blog, so there’s going to be a ton of them and it doesn’t bother me. Someone in the U.S. Immigration And Naturalization Service comes by every single day and I have no idea who it could be. I get a kick out of that, strangely!

  7. I can’t say that I’m familiar with the author’s you mention there, I’m more in to reading Scifi and Fantasy books, with the occasional technical tome, or biography thrown in!

    I have a huge pile of books that I’ve bought but not yet gotten around to reading. I seem to go through phases when I read a lot, and others when I don’t read so much.

    Ooh, so you “monitor” people by IP Address eh? Aha, well I’ll probably confuse you then, since there’s several different addresses that I’d visit from πŸ˜‰ And I often read without commenting. RSS is wonderful! πŸ™‚

  8. Lol ok, maybe “monitor” isn’t the right word… ::D

    I thought only us Professional Geeks memorised IP Addresses tho! hehe.

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