Thursday, May 22, 2014
The Summer Without Men by Siri Hustvedt
The Summer Without Men
by Siri Hustvedt
source: purchased ebook
Summary (from Publishers Weekly):
A theatrically manic poet turns heartbreak into an intellectual endeavor in Hustvedt's intellectually spry latest (after The Sorrows of an American). Fresh out of the hospital at age 55 following a breakdown brought on by her husband's departure for a young colleague referred to as "The Pause," award-winning poet and Columbia professor Mia Fredricksen flees Brooklyn to spend the summer in her Minnesota hometown. There she is in the company of her mother and four other feisty old ladies, the young mother next door, and the seven hormone-addled pubescent girls enrolled in her poetry class at the local arts guild. Mia sorts out her agony as only a scorned woman with a Ph.D. in comparative literature can—by pouring it through a sieve of poets, philosophers, and critical theorists. At times these references eclipse the presence of the narrator herself, but even this absence becomes the basis for philosophical rumination, as Mia corresponds online with the anonymous—and at times abusive—Mr. Nobody. Though initially trapped in a claustrophobic cerebral solitude, Mia opens up, and, in so doing, lets in some much needed air to a constricted narrative, so that instead of being another novel of a woman on the brink, this becomes an adroit take on love, men and women, and girls and women.
This novel started out very strong, rambled a bit in the middle (albeit intelligently), and ultimately ended up a satisfying read.
On the plus side:
* the plot
* the characters, women of all ages and stages of life
* the writing, so smart and engaging
A couple of minuses:
*rambling philosophical asides
* lack of chapter breaks
I loved the beginning of this novel (see my intro post) and even though it seemed to lose steam in the middle, Hustvedt's writing kept me reading. I know I'll be reading more of her work.