The Enchantment of Lily Dahl

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At the heart of Webster, Minnesota, on Division Street, lies the shabby but hospitable Ideal Cafe, where young Lily Dahl works as a waitress and also lives above it. Lily's story is also the haunting story of a small town where people are brought together by a powerful sense of place both geographical and spiritual. 288 pp.
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The Enchantment of Lily Dahl

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At the heart of Webster, Minnesota, on Division Street, lies the shabby but hospitable Ideal Cafe, where young Lily Dahl works as a waitress and also lives above it. Lily's story is also the haunting story of a small town where people are brought together by a powerful sense of place both geographical and spiritual. 288 pp.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Set in a small Minnesota town whose entire population appears to consist of slightly ominous eccentrics, Hustvedt's second novel (after 1992's The Blindfold) presents a coming of age story with Kafka-esque trappings and a mystery veneer. Lily Dahl, 19, is an aspiring actress who works the early morning shift as a waitress at the Ideal Cafe, where her considerably offbeat regulars include the stuttering and intense Martin Petersen, whom she's known since childhood. Lily takes up with Edward Shapiro, an artist from New York who has separated from his wife and is doing a series of portraits of local misfits. While Lily is busy attending rehearsals for her role in A Midsummer Night's Dream and getting acting lessons from her elderly neighbor, there are multiple sightings of a man carrying a woman's corpse around town. As Lily becomes increasingly convinced that young Martin is at the root of the bizarre events, she puts herself at risk to find out the truth. In the end, however, Hustvedt's plot is far simpler than it originally appears, and the somewhat forced strangeness of her characters' behavior may make some readers feel that the narrative is simply contrived. The novel is much stronger as a coming-of-age tale than it is as an existential mystery, however, and Hustvedt has created a charming and scrappy heroine in Lily Dahl. (Author tour.) (Sept.)
Library Journal
Hustvedt follows up the success of The Blindfold (LJ 3/15/92), portions of which appeared in The Best Short Stories of 1991 (LJ 10/1/91), with a riveting portrayal of a young woman in a small Midwestern town, cafe waitress Lily Dahl, who resembles a dark Marilyn Monroe. From her window, Lily watches Ed, a New York Jewish artist, as much seduced by her own eroticism as his. Ed paints private pictures of "people who looked straight out at you, but who were alone at the same time." Hustvedt's poignant depiction of the friendships and loneliness of small town life is reminiscent of Carson McCullers. Lily evolves from an unformed girl to a compelling woman who knows that her hope is her toughness. Rich characterization makes up for an initially slow-moving narrative, which gathers momentum and culminates in the spectacular demise of Lily's eccentric childhood friend. Recommended for all literary collections.Molly Gorman, San Marino, Cal.
From the Publisher
"This dark, sexy, spooky novel is an indelibly memorable fiction. Read it and it will haunt you. "-Salman Rushdie

"In her sophisticated handling of a powerful sexual drama, Siri Hustvedt proves the praise lavished on her first novel The Blindfold was not exaggerated. "-Baltimore Sun

"The Enchantment of Lily Dahl has the power to pull readers firmly into its orbit and to keep them there. "-The Village Voice

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312423391
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 3/28/2004
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 601,787
  • Product dimensions: 6.51 (w) x 8.31 (h) x 0.71 (d)

Meet the Author

Siri Hustvedt lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and child. She is the author of a previous novel, The Blindfold, and a collection of poems, Reading to You.

Good To Know

In our exclusive interview, Hustvedt shared some fascinating facts about herself with us:

"In the last eight years, my interest in art has become more than a hobby. I've been writing about painting off and on for the last eight years for art magazines."

"American mass media culture, with its celebrities, shopping hysteria, sound bites, formulaic plots, received ideas, and nauseating repetitions, depresses me. I like to watch movies on DVD but on the whole stay away from television and big Hollywood movies, although occasionally something good comes along and I go to see it. I liked both Groundhog Day and The Sixth Sense, for example."

"I enjoy domestic life. Cooking gives me great pleasure, especially if I can chop vegetables slowly and think about what I'm doing and dream a little about this and that. I always have flowers in my house and it makes me happy to arrange them and then look at them when I walk into a room. I love the little garden in the back of my family's brownstone in Brooklyn. Digging out there in the dirt is a joy for me, although by the time August rolls around and my roses have black spot, I need the break winter provides."

"I must say that I also like clothes and always have. When I was younger, I paid more attention to the quirks of fashion. Now I like well-made clothes that suit me and will last beyond a season."

"My greatest pleasure is spending time with my family: my husband and daughter, but also my mother, my three sisters and their families. My father died this year, and I have a growing need to enjoy the people I love most as much as possible."

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    1. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 19, 1955
    2. Place of Birth:
      Northfield, Minnesota
    1. Education:
      B.A. in history, St. Olaf College; Ph.D. in English, Columbia University

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