“Exuberant… A lighter, more lilting meditation on men and women, released in perfect time for summer reading… Hustvedt is a fearless writer… The reward for readers comes in the sheer intelligence of her prose… There is terrific writing here, mulling the gifts and limits of art, sex, marriage, but the touch is emphatically light… She's managed not to shrink the truth of women's lives, without relinquishing love for men.” San Francisco Chronicle
“Siri Hustvedt's engaging first novel…is a fragmented meditation on identity, abandonment, and loss. Multiple forms of prose pepper the narrative: poems, letters, e-mails, journal entries, and quotes from a raft of well-known scholars, scientists, and writers … Hustvedt manages to move seamlessly between Blake and Rilke to Kierkegaard and Hegel while maintaining a forward motion to this fluid narrative… Satsifying.” Boston Globe
“Elegant… a smart and surprisingly amusing meditation on love, friendship and sexual politics.” The Miami Herald
“An investigation into romantic comedy, both the classic Hollywood version‘love as verbal war’and Jane Austen’s Persuasion… Among the novel’s pleasures are its analysis of gender…and the character of Mia herself, who comes across as honest, witty and empathetic.” The New York Times Book Review
“This brisk, ebullient novel is a potpourri of poems, diary entries, emails and quicksilver self-analysis... The noisy chorus in Mia's head has an appealing way of getting inside the reader's too.” The Wall Street Journal
“A mesmerizing and powerful meditation on marriage, the differences between the sexes, aging and what it means to be a woman…. Truly breathtaking… Rich with both the pleasures and sorrows that make life complete, this is a powerful and provocative novel that will have astute readers reconsidering where exactly the boundaries between truth and fiction lie.” Bookpage
“Mia Frederickson, the poet narrator of The Summer Without Men… is blessed with empathy, irony and a healthy dose of feminist outrage at the way women's minds and bodies are routinely devalued… [Hustvedt's] finely wrought descriptions of everything from love to mean girls to marital sex make [The Summer Without Men] well worth reading.” Associated Press
“[Hustvedt's] finely wrought descriptions of everything from love to mean girls to marital sex make [The Summer Without Men] well worth reading.” Associated Press
“Composed in tight vivid prose, The Summer Without Men is energetic, and handles its subjects with depth and wit, painting its characters and their complex emotions in the kind of detail that rings true to life.” Bibliokept.org
“Breathtaking… hilarious… What a joy it is to see Hustvedt have such mordant fun in this saucy and scathing novel about men and women, selfishness and generosity…. Hustvedt has created a companionable and mischievous narrator to cherish, a healthy-minded woman of high intellect, blazing humor, and boundless compassion.” Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review)
“Intellectually spry… An adroit take on love, men and women, and girls and women.” Publisher's Weekly
“[A] 21st century riff on the 19th-century Reader-I-married-him school of quiet insurgent women's fiction… Tart comments on male vs. female styles of writing-and reading-novels are a delight… A smart, sassy reflection on the varieties of female experience.” Kirkus Reviews
A poet regains her balance following her husband's affair in Hustvedt's fifth novel (following The Sorrows of an American, 2008). After 30 years of marriage, Mia and Boris can easily finish each other's sentences, so closely are they enmeshed. But when Boris becomes enchanted by a younger colleague and tells Mia that he wants to take a "pause" from their marriage, shell-shocked Mia lands in a psychiatric hospital. Once released, she flees to rural Minnesota to spend the summer in the land of her childhood, where she hopes to heal while retracing the steps of her life. There, she comes to know a variety of females of all ages, each coping with the challenges of her particular stage of life. These interactions prove to be highly cathartic for Mia, and by summer's end she emerges stronger than ever before. VERDICT While this tragicomic depiction of "women on the verge" sometimes veers off tangentially, in the end it proves to be insightful and thought-provoking. Readers may be reminded of the intelligent, evocative writing of Anita Shreve or Elizabeth Berg.—Susanne Wells, MLS, Indianapolis
Hustvedt (The Shaking Woman, 2010, etc.) explores the Seven Ages of Woman.
Six, actually: No soldier here, though there's ugly conflict among the schoolgirls taking poet Mia Fredricksen's summer workshop. Mia has returned to Minnesota to recover from a breakdown brought on by her husband of 30 years saying that he wanted to take a "pause" in their marriage. She's rented a house near the senior dwelling where her mother now lives in the "independent zone"; the greatest fear of 87-year-old Laura Fredericksen and her friends is to be reduced to the "care center," where those sans everything (as Shakespeare put it) end up before they die. The child is 3-year-old Flora, whose mother Lola (the Bard's lover turned childbearing woman) has a turbulent marriage of her own. Observing all these females in the various stages of life, Mia ponders her own middle-aged crisis. Will Boris get over "the Pause" (her sardonic name for his French girlfriend)? Does Mia even want him to? She's become close to her mother's 94-year-old friend Abigail, whose subversive handicrafts display images of rage and sexuality that speak to Mia of every frustration in her long marriage. It takes a while to get used to Mia's habit of directly confiding in the reader, but most will come to relish Hustvedt's 21st-century riff on the 19th-century Reader-I-married-him school of quietly insurgent women's fiction. (Digressions about clueless male authorities' views on female sexuality and brain structure are more off-putting, but tart comments on male vs. female styles of writing—and reading—novels are a delight.) The schoolgirls' persecution of one of their number reminds us that men have no monopoly on cruelty, and the slow decline of Mia's elderly friend forecasts the end that awaits us all. Yet the mood is surprisingly buoyant, as though a summer without men proves to be the vacation Mia needs.
Lighthearted but not lightweight—a smart, sassy reflection on the varieties of female experience.