Monday, October 8, 2007

Book Review: Mr Vertigo by Paul Auster

For those who appreciate old-fashioned tall tales that are the product of a fertile imagination then Mr Vertigo, by Paul Auster, is an excellent choice of book for a wide range of readers. This is the story of Walt, an orphan, who is plucked from a miserable existence to be groomed for stardom by the mysterious Master Yehudi and the two form an unlikely bond through the sharing of a magical power.

Through Yehudi's torturous tutelage, which includes burial alive and the amputation of part of a finger, young Walt is taught, inch by inch, the secrets of levitation. For anyone who, similarly to myself, has ever had a dream which includes levitation, the style of flight Walt achieves is instantly recognizable, but it is not until he has mastered both altitude and locomotion that the pair are ready to take this amazing spectacle on tour.

There is something about the writing here that makes the reader feel like they are back in the time that this story is set and its originality is captivating. The characters are introduced slowly, but revealed little by little and the two main protagonists grow together and a real empathy is built up for them; I found myself caring about what happened to the two of them. So strange is the premise of the story that it becomes a page turner; to what end is the strange skill that Walt learns to be employed?

With a very readable style and skillfully constructed story, I found myself reading this book to its conclusion in just a few sittings in order to discover to what level of celebrity Walt and Master Yehudi attain. Whilst this story is largely one of adventure and is mainly uplifting, it does contain some tragic moments in the form of extreme racism, cancer and banditry, culminating in an upsetting conclusion.

This is an excellent and unusual tale which is suitable for a wide range of ages. I have read and enjoyed this story twice and, having written this short review, I am now considering reading it again. A wonderful book, highly recommended.

Score: 10/10

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