Title: The Summer Without Men
Author: Siri Hustvedt
First published January 1, 2011
182 pages, Paperback
ISBN: 9780312570606 (ISBN10: 0312570600)
The Summer Without Men by Siri Hustvedt is a poignant and comedic novel that explores the complexities of love, marriage, and the differences between men and women. After thirty years of marriage, Mia’s husband asks for a “pause,” sending her spiraling into a psychiatric ward.
Upon her release, she returns to her childhood town, where she navigates the lives of those around her, including her mother, friends, and a young neighbor. Through her experiences, Mia reflects on the age-old question of sameness and difference between men and women.
Hustvedt’s provocative and witty writing delves into the tragicomic nature of life and the importance of stopping the story at the right moment.
About the Author
Siri Hustvedt was born in Northfield, Minnesota. Her father, Lloyd Hustvedt, was a professor of Scandinavian literature, while her mother, Ester Vegan, emigrated from Norway at the age of thirty.
After obtaining her B.A. in history from St. Olaf College, Hustvedt went on to receive her Ph.D. in English from Columbia University. Her thesis on Charles Dickens was called Figures of Dust: A Reading of Our Mutual Friend.
Hustvedt is known primarily as a novelist, but she has also published a book of poetry and written short stories and essays on a variety of topics. Her work has been featured in publications like The Art of the Essay (1999), The Best American Short Stories (1990 and 1991), The Paris Review, Yale Review, and Modern Painters.
Similar to her husband, Hustvedt incorporates repetitive themes or symbols throughout her writing. She often explores voyeurism and the connections between objects and deceased characters with strangers.
Hustvedt also delves into questions of identity. Additionally, she has written essays on art history and theory, and painting and painters frequently play a role in her fiction, such as in her novel.
Hustvedt currently resides in Brooklyn, New York with her husband, writer Paul Auster, and their daughter, singer and actress Sophie Auster.
The Summer Without Men by Siri Hustvedt is a thought-provoking and deeply introspective novel that examines the intricacies of human relationships and the nuances of gender roles. Published in 2011, the book is a work of literary fiction that is imbued with rich language, complex characters, and a poignant exploration of the human heart.
Siri Hustvedt is an accomplished author who has written several award-winning books, including The Blazing World and What I Loved. Her writing is known for its intellectual sophistication, poetic depth, and intense emotional resonance.
With The Summer Without Men, Hustvedt explores the complexities of love and desire, the challenges of aging, and the ways in which we define ourselves in relation to others. The book follows the story of Mia, a poet who is recovering from a nervous breakdown.
After her husband confesses to having an affair, Mia decides to take a break from their marriage and spend the summer in her hometown of Minnesota. There, she reconnects with old friends and makes new ones, including a group of teenage girls who are preparing for a Shakespearean play.
As Mia navigates the ups and downs of her own life, she becomes a sounding board for the young girls and is forced to confront her own beliefs about gender, sexuality, and the nature of love. One of the strengths of The Summer Without Men is its vivid and nuanced portrayal of the characters.
Hustvedt is a masterful storyteller who has a gift for creating complex and multifaceted characters that feel like real people. Mia is a particularly compelling protagonist, as she grapples with the complexities of her own life while also serving as a mentor to the girls in the play.
Similarly, the teenage girls are portrayed with sensitivity and depth, and their struggles with growing up and coming of age are depicted with a unique blend of humor and compassion. Another strength of the book is its exploration of feminist themes and ideas.
The Summer Without Men is a feminist novel that examines the ways in which gender roles shape our lives and our relationships. Hustvedt does not shy away from tackling difficult and controversial topics, such as misogyny, rape culture, and the intersectionality of race, class, and gender.
The book is a timely and poignant exploration of these issues, and it offers a nuanced and insightful perspective on the challenges of being a woman in our contemporary society. One criticism of the book is that it can feel overly introspective and self-indulgent at times.
Mia’s musings on love, mortality, and the human condition can be repetitive and monotonous, and some readers may find themselves wishing for more action and plot development. Additionally, the Shakespearean play that the teenage girls are preparing for can feel like a contrived plot device at times, and its connection to the larger themes of the book is not always clear.
Overall, however, The Summer Without Men is a beautifully written and deeply moving novel that is sure to resonate with readers who are interested in exploring the complexities of human relationships and the nuances of gender identity. Hustvedt’s writing is lush and evocative, and her characters are fully realized and layered.
The book is an important contribution to feminist literature, and it offers a powerful and thought-provoking meditation on the complexities of the human heart. Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
While the book can feel overly self-indulgent at times, its depiction of complex and multifaceted characters and its exploration of feminist themes make it an important and compelling read.