Review: Invisible

Invisible Book Cover

By Paul Auster
June 2010

The Short of It:

Thoughtfully structured, Invisible is just the kind of brain candy that a true reader craves.

The Rest of It:

The story itself is simple. Adam Walker is dying. Before doing so, he decides to share his life story with an acquaintance from his years at Columbia. Jim, who has agreed to read the story and provide feedback where needed, is given the story in parts.

The first part is innocent enough. It’s where Adam meets Rudolf Barn and Rudolf’s mysterious girlfriend, Margot. The couple takes an immediate liking to Adam. The relationship is complicated in that Rudolf has offered Adam a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity…to start-up a magazine. This is an offer that Adam cannot refuse, but wait… there is an attraction to Margot. That’s where it gets complicated.

As Adam’s story is delivered in parts, Jim is not sure what to think. The story centers around a violent act, incest and these rather eccentric characters. What at first appears to be Adam’s life story, sort of morphs into what Jim thinks might be fiction or fantasy, but he can’t be sure, so he does a bit of his own research to find out.

Invisible is complicated in structure…there are multiple narrators, passages told in flashbacks, etc. However, it’s not a difficult read. In fact, it’s quite short for a novel and goes quite quickly, but there’s something about it that piques the senses. Auster’s use of language is admirable, but his ability to keep you slightly on the edge of your seat is what I enjoyed the most. This is not a mystery or thriller by any means but when he touches on incest I was like, “What? Did he just go there?” Yes, he goes there and gives you just enough to be utterly creeped out and disturbed and then pulls back to allow you a moment of reprieve.

It’s that delicate use of tension that pulls you in. I found myself hanging on every word. At times, it reminded me of The Talented Mr. Ripley. There’s the larger than life Born, the sexual tension, the lure of adventure. It’s packed with ambiguity, yet when you finish the novel, you somehow know how things turn out. When I finished it, I immediately wanted to read it again. Not because things were not clear, but because it’s just that kind of novel. It’s multi-layered and complex but in the best possible way.

You should know that there are some sex scenes that could be considered graphic. However, it’s the incest that will most likely disturb you the most, if you happen to be sensitive to that sort of thing. I am usually not, but there was one point where I remember squirming a bit in my seat. That said, I quickly got over it and felt that Auster’s handling of that particular scene was quite well done. If you enjoy sophisticated fiction and complex structure, you will definitely enjoy Invisible. It is one of my favorites for 2010.

My book club meets in September to discuss this book, but I won’t be able to attend due to back-to-school night. I think it is going to be a lively discussion as there is a lot to discuss.

If you’d like to know more about the book or the author, check out this BookBrowse review of Invisible. It includes an interview with Paul Auster from Granta magazine, which I found fascinating. I received Auster’s new book Sunset Park (Nov 2010)  a couple of weeks ago and can’t wait to read it.

Source: Purchased for Duckie (my Kindle).

15 thoughts on “Review: Invisible”

  1. OMG…I loved the review…this book has caught my interest before but I haven’t put it in my TBR pile yet…however…I love that you named your Kindle…I am now going to name mine…

  2. It sounds a little like Big Fish (the telling of the life story, not sure if it’s fact or fiction, etc) but obviously a bit darker. I’m pretty squeamish about incest, so I don’t know if I’ll be able to pick this one up, but it does sound like it might make a great conversation piece.

    BTW, it looks like (from your sidebar) you will be reading Wolf Hall for your next book club meeting. Dense book. Lots of interesting things in it (I was really glad I read it), but definitely takes some concentration and time. I’ll be interested to see what you think.

    1. I think I may have to buy Wolf Hall instead of downloading it to my Kindle. The PB is only $11 on B&N and the ebook is $12.99 anyway. This may be one book where I will actually have to write in the margins. I shudder at the thought. BTW…the incest inInvisible is squirm-worthy but somehow, Auster manages to validate it. You might be able to handle it.

  3. I’ve never read Auster but I absolutely loved your review and your comparison to The Talented Mr Ripley, which I adored (both the book and the film). I will definitely put this book on my TBR list.

  4. I’ve never read Auster either but your review has me thinking that this needs to be on my list. I’ve been looking for something to just consume me reading wise. Thanks for such a thorough review!

  5. I love, love Paul Auster but I was very disappointed in this book. I understand though why people would love it if it’s their first Auster. The incest just turned me off completely. If you like him, then you only have better books to look forward to. He’s a great writer.

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