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What I Lovedby Siri Hustvedt
Siri Hustvedt is one of the best writers that you've probably never heard of, and What I Loved is an extraordinary novel. Hustvedt's writing is agile and revelatory: now breathless, now cool, it's a story wound around the hollows left by love and memory. One child dies and the other implodes, and each in their way takes everyone around them with them. What I Loved is gorgeous, intricate, and heartbreaking.
Poignant and erotic, this sumptuous novel is Hustvedt's best yet.
"In the marvelous and gripping first third of Siri Hustvedt's fifth book, an academic named Leo Hertzberg recounts the beginning years of his, and his wife Erica's, burgeoning friendship with a brilliant painter and his wife (and the painter's girlfriend). This is intelligent and full-hearted stuff, and What I Loved seems to be shaping up to be a rare accomplishment — a thrilling novel of ideas." Adrienne Miller, Esquire (read the entire Esquire review)
Synopses & Reviews
A powerful and heartbreaking novel that chronicles the epic story of two families, two sons, and two marriages. What I Loved begins in New York in 1975, when art historian Leo Hertzberg discovers an extraordinary painting by an unknown artist in a SoHo gallery. He buys the work; tracks down the artist, Bill Wechsler; and the two men embark on a life-long friendship.
Leo's story, which spans twenty-five years, follows the evolution of the growing involvement between his family and Bill's — an intricate constellation of attachments that includes the two men; their wives, Erica and Violet; and their children, Matthew and Mark. The families live in the same building in New York, share a house in Vermont during the summer, keep up a lively exchange of thoughts and ideas, and find themselves permanently altered by one another. Over the years, they not only enjoy love but endure loss-in one case sudden, incapacitating loss; in another, a different kind, one that is hidden and slow-growing, and which insidiously erodes the fabric of their lives.
Intimate in tone and seductive in its complexity, the novel moves seamlessly from inner worlds to outer worlds, from the deeply private to the public, from physical infirmity to cultural illness. Part family novel, part psychological thriller, What I Loved is a beautifully written exploration of love, loss, and betrayal — and of a man's attempt to make sense of the world and go on living.
"Hustvedt beautifully captures the devastation of such loss as she immerses the reader in the lives of two families who, hobbled by their shared wounds, desperately search for salvation in the accomplished world of art and intellectual brilliance in New York City. Highly recommended." Beth E. Andersen, Library Journal
"What I Loved is Siri Hustvedt's most ambitious, most rewarding novel. It mesmerizes, rouses, disturbs. Hustvedt is that rare artist, a writer of high intelligence, profound sensuality and a less easily definable capacity for which the only word I can find is wisdom." Salman Rushdie
"An impressive new talent....Relationships, like everything else in Hustvedt's world, are lively, unpredictable, full of mysterious emotion: the dark side of everyday life." Time
"A writer of eloquent and vivid disposition." Don DeLillo
"Hustvedt is an accomplished art critic and essayist, and her knowledge is put to good narrative use both in vivid portraiture and in her depiction of 'the vanities, corruptions, cruelties, foibles, fortunes and falls of New York's art world.' But her real canvas is philosophical, and here she explores the nature of identity in a structure of crystalline complexity." Janet Burroway, New York Times Book Review
"So solid and complex are Hustvedt's characters that the change in pace is effortlessly effected — the plot developments are the natural extension of the author's meticulous examination of relationships and motives....[A] gripping, seductive novel, a breakout work for Hustvedt." Publishers Weekly
"[Hustvedt] succeeds in evoking her self-absorbed characters' lives with startling sympathy and nuance...while demonstrating a depth of emotion not evinced by her earlier fiction. The second half of the novel, however, devolves into a hokey thriller....an unfortunate development for a book that got off to such a promising start." Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
"Superb...What I Loved is a rare thing, a page turner written at full intellectual stretch, serious but witty, large-minded and morally engaged." The New York Times Book Review
"So richly imagined is the art in her book that it serves not just to illuminate hidden emotions but also as a subject in itself...A wrenching portrait of parental grief, then a psychological thriller, and finally a meditation on the perspective of memory." Vogue
What I Loved begins in New York in 1975, when art historian Leo Hertzberg discovers an extraordinary painting by an unknown artist in a SoHo gallery. He buys the work; tracks down the artist, Bill Wechsler; and the two men embark on a life-long friendship. Leo's story, which spans twenty-five years, follows the growing involvement between his family and Bill's--an intricate constellation of attachments that includes the two men, their wives, Erica and Violet, and their sons, Matthew and Mark.
The families live in the same New York apartment building, rent a house together in the summers and keep up a lively exchange of ideas about life and art, but the bonds between them are tested, first by sudden tragedy, and then by a monstrous duplicity that slowly comes to the surface. A beautifully written novel that combines the intimacy of a family saga with the suspense of a thriller, What I Loved is a deeply moving story about art, love, loss, and betrayal.
About the Author
Siri Hustvedt is the author of two previous novels, The Blindfold and The Enchantment of Lily Dahl also available from Picador. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, Paul Auster.
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