What I Loved
is a deeply touching elegiac novel that mourns for the New York artistic life, which was of a time but now has gone--by extension, it is about all losses swept away by mischance and time. Half-blind and alone, Leo tells us of marriage and friendship, and makes the sheer fragility of what seemed forever not only his subject, but perhaps the only subject worth considering. Scholars Leo and his wife Erica admire, and befriend, artist Bill and his first and second wives--their respective sons Matthew and Mark grow up together until the first of a series of tragedies strikes. And things get gradually worse from then on, both because terrible things happen and because people do not get over them.
Part of the strength of this impressive novel is its emotional intensity and part is the context in which those emotions exist; these are smart and talented people, even the children, and we luxuriate, even when things are at their worst, in the sheer intelligence they bring to bear on their situations. It is also impressive that, for Hustvedt, intelligence is an end in itself rather than something that prevents tragedy or makes it more bearable. This is a powerful book because everything Leo knows makes him ever more the victim of exquisite pain. --Roz Kaveney
'The New York that oozes from her pages is dazzling, sexy, darkly lit. But this is also a wide, sensuous novel - clever, sinister, yet attractively real. It lives and breathes and never apologises for itself ... I can't remember the last time I finished a novel and truly believed I'd absorbed the taste and span of an artist's career as well as the pains and joys of 30 years of his sexual and emotional life, but this one convinced me I had.' (Julie Myerson, Guardian )
'Hustvedt writes with chilling intensity, and with an intimate knowledge of New York ... eerie and atmospheric' (Kate Chisholm, Daily Telegraph )
'[Her] characters [are] so lovingly created, who endure such loss and heartbreak, that they'll have you weeping on to the pages while you try to work out what connects Charcot's hysterics to modern-day SoHo.' (Alice Fisher, Time Out )
'A dark, sexually charged and complex novel ... Rich in detail and visual imagery, this is a book to slowly savour and unravel.' (Eve magazine )
'An extraordinarily dense novel, with as much or as little scholasticism as the reader chooses to find. The symbolic motifs of childhood, from the story of Hansel and Gretel to the creation of imaginary companions, jostle with darker myths in the lives of these people; but there are also at least two fine love stories and many acts of kindness between friends. They do not deserve the tragedy which befalls them, but their very decency in the face of it has dignity and magnificence.' (Image magazine )
'Defiantly complex and frequently dazzling ... a truly memorable novel ... [Siri Hustvedt] has created a conceptually exciting work that demands we think, but which still allows us room to feel.'
'Hustvedt is a serious, ambitious writer whose novels are intelligent, involving and engrossingly textured, like the highest class of thrillers.' (Michael Thompson-Noel, Financial Times 20030215)
'A gripping intellectual read' (Hugo Barnacle, New Statesman 20030215)