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The Man of My Dreams: A Novelby Curtis Sittenfeld
"Sittenfeld's latest novel lacks Prep's zip and verve. Without the claustrophobic microcosm of boarding school — the cliques, insider customs, and subterranean class issues — the far baggier Man of My Dreams drifts episodically along, propelled only by Hannah's sullen musings. Fortunately, the meandering is often redeemed by Sittenfeld's ability to evoke surprising details and fresh perspectives." Elizabeth Judd, The Atlantic Monthly (read the entire Atlantic Monthly review)
Synopses & Reviews
In her acclaimed debut novel, Prep, Curtis Sittenfeld created a touchstone with her pitch-perfect portrayal of adolescence. Her prose is as intensely realistic and compelling as ever in The Man of My Dreams, a disarmingly candid and sympathetic novel about the collision of a young woman's fantasies of family and love with the challenges and realities of adult life.
Hannah Gavener is fourteen in the summer of 1991. In the magazines she reads, celebrities plan elaborate weddings; in Hannah's own life, her parents' marriage is crumbling. And somewhere in between these two extremes — just maybe — lie the answers to love's most bewildering questions. But over the next decade and a half, as she moves from Philadelphia to Boston to Albuquerque, Hannah finds that the questions become more rather than less complicated: At what point can you no longer blame your adult failures on your messed-up childhood? Is settling for someone who's not your soul mate an act of maturity or an admission of defeat? And if you move to another state for a guy who might not love you back, are you being plucky — or just pathetic?
None of the relationships in Hannah's life are without complications. There's her father, whose stubbornness Hannah realizes she's unfortunately inherited; her gorgeous cousin, Fig, whose misbehavior alternately intrigues and irritates Hannah; Henry, whom Hannah first falls for in college, while he's dating Fig; and the boyfriends who love her more or less than she deserves, who adore her or break her heart. By the time she's in her late twenties, Hannah has finally figured out what she wants most — but she doesn't yet know whether she'll find the courage to go after it.
Full of honesty and humor, The Man of My Dreams is an unnervingly insightful and beautifully written examination of the outside forces and personal choices that make us who we are.
"Sittenfeld's poignant if generic follow-up to her bestselling debut, Prep, similarly tracks a young woman's coming-of-age, but rather than navigating an elite school's nasty and brutish social system, this time the narrator contends with a dysfunctional family and her own yearnings for love. Fourteen-year-old Hannah Gavener is abruptly shipped off from Philadelphia to live with her aunt in Pittsburgh when her mercurial, vindictive father breaks up his marriage and family, which includes Hannah's older sister, Allison, and their browbeaten mother. Sweet but insecure and passive, Hannah had 'been raised...not to be accommodated but to accommodate,' an upbringing that hobbles all her subsequent relationships. The novel follows Hannah through her teens and late 20s (from 1991 to 2005), as she searches for romantic fulfillment, navigates friendships (e.g., with her larger-than-life cousin Fig) and alternately tries to reconcile with her father and distance herself from him. But the most influential connection Hannah makes is with her psychiatrist, Dr. Lewin, whom she begins seeing her freshman year at Tufts. Although the novel aspires to be taken seriously and Hannah is a sympathetic protagonist, she remains a textbook case of a young woman who wants 'a man who will deny her. A man of her own who isn't hers.' 12-city author tour. (May 16)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[A] novel that rings completely true." Booklist
"[C]ompelling." Library Journal
"An earnest, if somewhat underdeveloped, antidote to chick-lit." Kirkus Reviews
"The Man of My Dreams is so free of tricks, the honesty is so startling, you feel there's a writer here who isn't trying to beguile you but to lay out some plain, raw truth about emotions and sex. This is a courageous, refreshing novel." Alice Munro
"The Man of My Dreams has some of the same markings as Sittenfeld's well-regarded first novel, Prep. It shows off her skill at capturing a teenager's sense of isolation, but it could have pushed a little deeper." Minneapolis Star Tribune
"[I]f [Sittenfeld's] portrayals are wholly recognizable, their range is narrow and flat....In her new novel, Sittenfeld's voice seems attenuated, a single tune instead of an opera. Hannah's low self-esteem is sad, but it's hard to picture her any other way." Los Angeles Times
"Sittenfeld continues to address the angst of self-proclaimed social misfits with unflagging sensitivity and intelligence....There's nothing stale about Sittenfeld's assured, nuanced writing." Christian Science Monitor
"The Man of My Dreams reads mostly like a comic novel; Sittenfeld circles Hannah, laughing at her, sympathizing with her, even judging her....
"[Sittenfeld] has the potential to carve out a new place, based largely on the strength of that prose, for every woman who wants to write (or read) good fiction about growing up and messing up — just the way the boys do." San Francisco Chronicle
"Sittenfeld writes in crisp, vigorous prose that frequently rises to eloquence." Washington Post
"[A] how-to for moving from the tangled throes of romantic relationships to the treacherous cobblestones of maturity." Seattle Times
About the Author
Curtis Sittenfeld's first novel, Prep, was a national bestseller. It was chosen as one of the Ten Best Books of 2005 by the New York Times, will be published in fourteen foreign countries, has been optioned by Paramount Pictures. Sittenfeld's nonfiction has appeared in the New York Times, the Atlantic Monthly, Salon, Allure, Glamour, and on NPR's This American Life. She lives in Philadelphia. Visit her website at www.curtissittenfeld.com.
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