March 28, 2011

The Summer Without Men - Siri Hustvedt


Firstly, can I just say how much I love the cover of this book - so simple and yet very effective. I found myself turning to look at it at random times throughout my reading. Which is not to say that the book is not an absorbing read!

The Summer Without Men is the story of Mia - a middle aged woman whose husband has just told her he would like to take a "pause" in their 30 year marriage to explore a relationship with a much younger colleague. Mia does not take the announcement well and she spends some time in a psychiatric hospital after Boris's decision sends her into a psychotic depression.

When Mia leaves hospital she decides to temporarily move to the town where she grew up as a child to get some distance from her life with Boris and to continue to write and teach poetry. While in the small town of Bonden Mia spends time with her ageing mother and her variety of friends, she teaches the craft of poetry and life lessons to a group of adolescent girls and she connects with a young mother and her two children living in the house next door to her. Mia refers to this part of her life as "the Yawn between Crazed Winter and Sane Fall".

The book is told from Mia's perspective and at times it can feel very insular and indulgent - I didn't particularly find the sections where Mia shares some of her poetry very enlightening for example. But the parts of the book where Mia talks about her relationships and the new connections she is making (especially with the woman next door and her mother) I could have read so much more of. There is a growth and a discovery process going on for Mia over the the course of the novel and it is great to be able to see this take place - the narrative form of the book almost makes it feel as though you are a part of this process also.

I loved this story for it's focus on women and the relationships we form - both good and not so good.

17 comments:

Sabrina said...

Thanks for the review. I read What I loved by Siri Hustvedt some years ago and loved it. It is still one of my top twenty reads. The complexity of relationships Hustvedt portrays is really grabbing. On my tbr it goes.

Audra said...

Siri Hustvedt's The Blindfold was one of the most twisted things I've ever read -- I'm not sure I could handle her take on a woman's (failing?) marriage. Still -- your review has me totally considering it!

Steph said...

I seriously *just* finished this book, so I was so happy to see your post pop up in my reader. This was my first Hustvedt novel, but it will definitely not be my last. I thought it was so intelligent, so powerful, so brave and honest. Loved it very much, and I can't wait to spread the word about its greatness!

A Bookish Way of Life said...

Sounds like an interesting story. I've never read anything by Hustevdt, so I'd be interested in giving this book a read. I'll definitely be adding it to my Kindle. Thanks!

JoAnn said...

Definitely sounds like a book I'd enjoy... and what a great cover!

Holly (2 Kids and Tired) said...

This is a new to me author, and the book does sound interesting. I may need to look into Siri Hustvedt a little more.

Karen said...

Hi Sabrina - I haven't read that one of hers yet but I will definitely get to it soon. She is such a classy writer!

Hi Audra - I think I have managed to steer clear of her more twisted books so far!!

Hi Steph - So glad to hear that you loved it too! Intelligent and powerful are definitely words I would use to describe this one too.

Hi Nadia - This is quite a short novel too so it would probably be a good one to start with to see if you like this author.

Hi JoAnn - I think this is one of my top 10 book covers of all time!

Hi Holly - I hope you check her out!

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