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What I Loved [Paperback]

Siri Hustvedt
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
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Book Description

4 Aug 2003
This is the story of two men who first become friends in 1970s New York, of the women in their lives, and of their sons, born the same year. Both Leo Hertzberg, an art historian, and Bill Weschler, a painter, are cultured, decent men, but neither is equipped to deal with what happens to their children - Leo's son drowns when he's 12, while Bill's son Mark grows up to be a delinquent, and the acolyte of a sinister, guru-like artist who spawns murder in his wake. Spanning the hedonism of the eighties and the chill-out nineties, this multi-layered novel combines a plot of mounting menace with a deeply moving account of familial relationships and a superbly observed portrait of an artist, set against the backdrop of a society reaching new depths of depravity in its frenetic quest for the next fashion, drug and thrill.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre; New Ed edition (4 Aug 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340682388
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340682388
  • Product Dimensions: 2.6 x 12.8 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 38,250 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Siri Hustvedt's first novel, THE BLINDFOLD, was published by Sceptre in 1993 and her second, THE ENCHANTMENT OF LILY DAHL, followed in 1997. Her third novel, WHAT I LOVED, was published in 2003 to even greater acclaim and has been an international success; her next novel, THE SORROWS OF AN AMERICAN, followed in 2008. Her work has been published in The Paris Review, Fiction, and The Best American Short Stories, and she is also the author of READING TO YOU, a poetry collection, and three collections of essays, YONDER, MYSTERIES OF THE RECTANGLE, and A PLEA FOR EROS. Her most recent book, THE SHAKING WOMAN: A HISTORY OF MY NERVES, was published in 2010. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband, Paul Auster.

Product Description

Amazon Review

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Breathtaking (James Urquhart, Independent)

A love story with the grip and suspense of a thriller. It makes you ponder human existence with a peculiar mixture of stoicism and wonder. (Noonie Minogue, Times Literary Supplement)

Defiantly complex and frequently dazzling ... she has created a conceptually exciting work that demands we think, but which still allows us room to feel. (Alex Clark, Sunday Times)

Substantial, moving and beautifully written (Christian House, Independent on Sunday)

A big, wide, sensuous novel - clever, sinister, yet attractively real (Julie Myerson, Guardian)

A consummately intelligent novel, highly literate but also intensely moving. (Jackie McGlone, Scotsman)

Riveting ... erudite and immensely detailed ... a rich, densely textured and utterly absorbing novel (Lesley Glaister)

Subtle, compassionate, wise, and supremely intelligent, it's a striking achievement. (Kieron Corless, Time Out)

Hustvedt ranks amongst the finest American writers working today (Jennifer O'Connell, Sunday Business Post)

a powerful novel of love, loss and longing, exquisitely written (Anne Donovan, Sunday Herald)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought-Provoking and Thrilling 7 Sep 2011
By Kate Hopkins TOP 500 REVIEWER
A rather surprising novel, which begins as a gentle, rather intellectual examination of the friendship between Leo (an art historian) and Bill (an artist, who works as a painter, sculptor and increasingly in mixed media), and their families, but which turns in the last third of the novel into a thriller, with Bill's extremely disturbed son Mark as one of the central figures. Hustvedt's language in the novel is beautiful, her characters compelling. I particularly admired her description of the collapse of Bill's marriage to the cool and remote Lucille, and his very happy second marriage to his former model Violet Blom, a writer on hysteria, eating disorders and cultural studies. Hustvedt also handled very well Leo's secret attraction to Violet, which runs side by side with his very real love for his wife Erica, a professor of English literature. There is much interesting discussion of culture and philosophy (I'd say you have to be of a fairly academic bent to enjoy the first half of the book, but most people who read Hustvedt would be) and Hustvedt also brings Bill's artwork wonderfully to life, particularly his paintings. Although I found the collapse of Leo's family life after a tragedy somewhat unexpected (and it might have been more interesting to have Leo's son survive - he would have been a strong contrast to Mark) Hustvedt also writes well and sensitively on grief, and how one might feel having lost a child. The second half of the book is a real page-turner, without ever becoming vulgar in any way, and with many interesting insights into child and adolescent psychology, even if the figure of Teddy Giles may seem slightly melodramatic (but then, many performance artists are! Read more ›
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Diamond in the rough 18 Aug 2007
By International Cowgirl VINE VOICE
What I Loved is a beautiful, sprawling novel about love and loss. Once you get past the first hundred or so pages, that is. Divided into three parts, the first third genuinely doesn't seem to know where it's going, with interwoven flashbacks that quickly become disorientating. Persevere, though, because the good stuff is yet to come. The book as a whole reads as if Hustvedt honed her literary skills during the course of writing it - and then simply didn't bother to go back and edit part one. The worst of it is that her narrator's voice doesn't ring true at first either. This is supposedly written from the perspective of an elderly man, but Siri Hustvedt is very much female - and it shows. For the longest time there's simply no avoiding the glaring fact that it's a woman speaking here, not a man. Then the novel takes a dramatic turn, and from that point onwards she seems to get into her strides, so to speak.

The method Hustvedt uses to get your attention is hardly original, but it's powerful nonetheless. I hadn't expected to care so much, but a growing affection for the characters had crept up on me somehow and from that point on I was hooked. In short, there's never been a more deserving candidate for the phrase `flawed but interesting'. In spite of the bumpy start there's some magnificent stuff here. This is (partly) a book about the outskirts of the New York art scene, and her lengthy descriptions of one artist's works are rendered stunningly well. Even potentially dry academic subjects are given life and vigour by Hustvedt's pen. Oddly enough, when the book moves into horror film territory, she really excels at the gory stuff - everything is fleshy and real, almost sickeningly so.
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47 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Must Read Novels of this year 20 Jan 2003
By A Customer
What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt, is one of the most extraordinary novels I have read for a long time. It is primarily a novel of ideas and yet has a great plot and is very gripping. It is the story of 2 couples who are part of the artistic bohemian set in Greenwich Village, they are a very close group of friends and few other people permeate into their world. This book charts the relationships between these people and their children. The novel incorporates art, the process of biography, memory and how it fluctuates, love, loss, hysteria, eating disorders and many many other issues. It is one of those rare things a book which stays with you for a long time after you have read it. I urge everyone who enjoys fine writing and thoughtful concepts to read this book it is a real treat.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars involving - eventually 28 Nov 2007
* The main characters are well written and involving. The author is remarkably good at writing from a male perspective, though that perspective is a narrow one, restricted to the New York intelligentsia.
* An exceptional and moving description of parental reaction - both physical and emotional - to the death of their child.
* The "thriller" element has a slow build-up, though eventually becomes a close examination of aspects of the "Nature/Nurture" debate on psychopathology; and this is convincingly explored.

* The setting is very rarefied - the New York art world. If you have no interest in this small group of self-important people, then it is difficult to care about them, unless the author works hard with emotional pathos.
* The author has included very elongated passages describing her conception (through her artistic character Bill) of conceptual artwork. Maybe this is post-conceptual i.e. describing an art-piece without actually creating it. However, I found it starts to pall rather quickly. I skipped these pages.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Do Not Waste Your Time Or Money
One of the worst books I've ever tried to read.
Never made it to the end because I didn't care about ANY of the characters. Read more
Published 9 days ago by Mara Kurtz
2.0 out of 5 stars Intrusive author
There is probably a good novel about relationships hidden in this book, although the characters are not warmly drawn,so it's hard to feel sympathy for them. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Martin Daly
3.0 out of 5 stars Brilliantly evocative descriptions of art and artists - but ultimately...
This is a long novel and ultimately it disappoints with a rushed end that attempts, but fails, to wrap up many of the lines in the plot. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Quandoquidem
5.0 out of 5 stars I didn't want it to end
This is a life-affirming novel. I would heartily recommend it. It is beautifully crafted and although it is part life story, part love story it is not an easy read. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Caro on the couch
2.0 out of 5 stars Overlong and ultimately tedious
A novel set in an artistic community in New York about loss, damage, and relationships which I started enthusiastically but eventually found overlong, tedious and increasingly... Read more
Published 4 months ago by A. Krarup
5.0 out of 5 stars An interesting read
I first read this book quite a few years back and have since read a few other of her books including one on painting, so I definitely like Siri Hustvedt's style of thinking and... Read more
Published 7 months ago by M. Torma
4.0 out of 5 stars good writing as usual
She writes clearly and concisely.
However in this book i feel she overdid some of her descriptions, though they were perhaps necessary to understand the story better.
Published 7 months ago by Elena Maria Accinelli
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best book I ever read.
One of the best book I ever read. Siri Hustvedt is a tremendous writer. Deep, brilliant with profound fantastic descriptions.
Published 8 months ago by JOSE CARLOS VIEIRA
4.0 out of 5 stars What I Loved
This novel sees Professor Leo Hertzberg, art historian, look back over twenty five years of his life and his relationship with his close friend, artist, Bill Wechsler. Read more
Published 9 months ago by S Riaz
5.0 out of 5 stars Enchanting novel
I'm very fond of Siri Hustvedt as a writer, she has special style of writing that appeal to me. What I loved is a fantastic well written novel. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Slveig
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