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.)
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
“Siri Hustvedt writes, literally, like a dream--a dream that's at once intensely romantic and disturbingly eerie. This dark, sexy, spooky novel is an indelibly memorable fiction. Read it and it will haunt you.” Salman Rushdie
“Highly original...a crystalline blend of innocence and sophistication, irony and candor.” Newsday
“The Enchantment of Lily Dahl has the power to pull readers firmly into its orbit and to keep them there.” The Village Voice
“She writes like a dream.” GQ