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.