Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Summer Without Men by Siri Hustvedt

Book:  The Summer Without Men 

Author:  Suri Hustvedt 

Grade:  C MINUS

Recommended To:  poetry loves, middle-aged women, married people. 

This book was wretchedly disappointing.  The back snippet made it look awesome - this lady needs a break from her husband who has been cheating on her, so she moves back to her hometown to spend time with her mother and teach a bunch of 13 year olds how to write poetry.

Unfortunately, this book did not live up to even my slight expectations.   The narrator's husband tells her he wants a "Pause"  just like that too - with a capital P and in italics every time it is written in the book - this causes her to have a total mental collapse and she lands in a mental hospital.  Which sounds interesting right?  Except it isn't.  She recovers quickly and then takes a break in someone else's house for the summer.

Can you tell already that there is a lot going on in this book that doesn't intermingle at all?  I just get so tired of books that are  just about someone's life and nothing interesting happens.   There is one point where the narrator feels a "presence behind the door" and for some totally inexplicable reason she's terrified, but there isn't anyone there.  She chalks it up to ghosts that she has "felt her whole life." My God - I hope she got raptured yesterday, so that I never have to read about this narrator's life ever again.

I think the real problem is that this author tried too hard to make her character deep, but then didn't wait around to tie all of the pieces together.  You are left with this character that is fully "developed" but hasn't gone anywhere or done anything during the book.

Finally, this book is chock full of poetry - I don't love poetry, I don't read it, write it, or really understand verses that don't rhyme.  So, when I see a song or a poem in a book, I usually, out of habit, just skip over it and keep reading the next lines.  That sucks for this author, who I'm sure spent a lot of time finding poems that fit with whatever she was trying to do in this book.  I'm bored with poetry - and I was bored with this book.

In general, I gave this book a C minus - mostly because there aren't any grammatical errors or anything too egregious.  But, it was barely worth a C because it was pretentious, boring, and generally an eye-roller because of the stream of consciousness writing.   Sigh, I'm glad I won this book, but I will be passing it on quickly.

Happy Reading


  1. Check out the Tribune today, they have a 20-page summer reading supplement!!

  2. Will have to check out the supplement. I am not into poetry either so I appreciate your honest review. Thank you. Donna