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The Enchantment of Lily Dahl [Paperback]

Siri Hustvedt
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

19 Jun 1997
Lily Dahl is a heroine of the old school: tough, beautiful and brave. A nineteen-year-old waitress and aspiring actress living in Webster, Minnesota, she becomes enchanted by an exotic outsider - an artist from New York. Drawn into a world of erotic adventure, she finds herself the target of mysterious acts of madness as she strains against the confines of small town life.

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The Enchantment of Lily Dahl + The Blindfold + The Summer without Men
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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre; New Ed edition (19 Jun 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340682361
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340682364
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 88,402 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Siri Hustvedt's first novel, The Blindfold, was published by Sceptre in 1993. Since then she has published The Enchantment of Lily Dahl, What I Loved, The Sorrows of an American, The Summer Without Men and The Blazing World, which was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2014. She is also the author of the poetry collection Reading To You, and four collections of essays: Yonder, Mysteries of the Rectangle: Essays on Painting, A Plea for Eros and Living, Thinking, Looking, as well as the memoir The Shaking Woman: A History of My Nerves.

Born in Minnesota, Siri Hustvedt now lives in Brooklyn, New York. She has a PhD in English from Columbia University and in 2012 was awarded the International Gabarron Prize for Thought and Humanities.

Product Description


Compelling...Webster's hot-house atmosphere and collection of oddballs and freaks are brilliantly evoked...She orchestrates suspense masterfully and her writing has a quality of stillness, of effortless deliberation, which is peculiarly suited to the sense of foreboding. (Literary Review)

Full of humour, surprise and powerful images...Hustvedt's real triumph, though, is to take the ordinary and make it strange while showing how all strangeness is rooted in the ordinary. (Observer)

Told with the gripping pace of a straightforward mystery tale...A natural born storyteller (Independent)

A taut and convincing drama, as well as an intriguing metaphysical thriller (Sunday Times)

Subtle, complex and engaging (Financial Times)

Hustvedt's powerful theme of small-town mentality shows how intimacy and claustrophobia, secrets and skeletons, come out of the same closet...[an] exploration of the narrow line between imagination and reality while still managing to be a rip-roaring adventure story...beautifully written (Scotsman)

A startlingly good novel, tautly written and very sexy. (Marie Claire)

Book Description

Siri Hustvedt's mesmerising second novel, 'startlingly good, tautly written and very sexy' Marie Claire.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strange and magical... 29 April 2003
This is an absolutely wonderful novel. It is as gripping as a thriller, but so beautifully written that the words flow from the page like silk. Siri Hustvedt builds an atmosphere of dreamlike strangeness in describing the small town of Webster and the misfits who inhabit the world of Lily Dahl. The novel is suffused with the mystery of things half-seen or overheard.
The author elicits tremendous sympathy for her characters, no matter how repugnant they may initially seem. The character of Martin, especially, is brilliantly drawn. Lily herself is outwardly strong and confident, yet inwardly fragile and uncertain. Her desire for the man across the street begins the story, and her voyeurism is echoed throughout the book.
The novel has a real darkness at its heart, with recurring themes of loneliness and obsession. Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" is quoted several times, adding to the mystical atmosphere, but this is definitely a Grimm's fairytale!
I absolutely loved this book. It combines wonderful writing with a great plot and fascinating characters. I almost envy you if you haven't yet read it. I'm planning to read her other two novels as soon as possible.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not her best work 11 July 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is not Siri Hustvedt's best works, and unlike her other books its really mostly based on the events of the story and not the way she tells it in other words the emphasis is NOT on how she elaborate the thoughts and emotions going within the characters.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Menace and Romance of Small Town Life 9 May 2013
By Kate Hopkins TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I found this novel very different to the other two Siri Hustvedts that I have read, both in terms of plot and in terms of setting - instead of her preferred cast of New York academics and intelligentsia, Hustvedt sets the novel in Webster, a small town in Minnesota (loosely based on the area where she grew up) with a cast of small-town eccentrics. Lily Dahl, her heroine, is a 19-year-old waitress working at the Ideal Cafe, with aspirations to become an actress and a fixation on Marilyn Monroe. She is beautiful, energetic, intelligent and kind, and therefore just the sort of girl to attract attention from manipulative or obsessive men. The novel follows Lily's life over the course of a summer in which she is rehearsing for a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, in which she is playing the part of Hermia. During this period, Lily befriends her elderly neighbour Mabel, a bibliophile writing her memoirs, falls in love with Ed Shapiro, an artist visiting the town from New York, and becomes increasingly aware of a menacing atmosphere in the small town. Webster's seen some dark events in the past, in particular the death of a local woman, Helen Bodler, who it was always thought was murdered. Now, Lily senses that something nasty may happen again, and begins to become increasingly suspicious of Martin Petersen, a local boy playing a small part in A Midsummer Night's Dream, who she's known since childhood and who appears to be developing a fixation on her. There's other things to worry about with Martin too - the fact that he turns up to rehearsals with cuts on his hands, and his habit of prowling about at night. Lily becomes increasingly determined to find out what Martin is up to - even though she's aware it may become dangerous. Read more ›
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A timeless beautiful mystery 24 April 2009
By Lou Ice
I love it! It has a mystical element, but it can be explained, it doesn't flip and become unbelievable. It's a beautiful timeless story and has references to the icons Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley. We never find out what time the story is set in, but it's clear that Elvis and Marilyn are dead.

Lily Dahl lives in a small town in the middle of America, works in a café and is doing a bit of acting. She falls in love with an older visiting artist, who lives in the hotel opposite her room. He falls in love with her too, and he's not the only one. One of the café guests, Martin, whom Lily played with when she was little, seems almost obsessed with her. Lily thinks that he hides something and is determined to find out what. She confides in her older neighbour, Mabel, who also helps her with rehearsing the lines for the play she's in. (Martin is in the play as well and it makes you think about what's real and what's just an act.)

Hustvedt creates a very eerie, fairy tale like atmosphere and yet manages to keep it very real. Lily is strong-minded character who wants to find the truth no matter what. The small town life with its odd characters, like the Bodley Brothers, is well portrayed.
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