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3.3 out of 5 stars23
3.3 out of 5 stars
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Adelle Waldman's debut The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. Has been called "the best debut novel of the summer." Now, whether it is or not I cannot say as I've not read all the debuts, but it certainly is first-rate. Simply couldn't put the book down. Part social commentary and part character study it is an astute, witty, elegant look at modern day romance.

Seems Brooklynite Nate Piven would be a catch for any woman - he's smart, an on-the-way-up author, and he really likes women. Problem is he always seems to let them down, which has won him an unenviable reputation. His past relationships have been marked by missteps, usually on his part. He does have the best intentions but things always go awry - just ask Juliet or Elisa. "Contrary to what these women seemed to think, he was not indifferent to their happiness. And yet he seemed, in spite of himself to provoke it."

Waldman traces the literary scene, Nate's relationships with various women, and his friendships, most notably with Aurit who tries to offer advice. This author is quick to take on apt descriptions of those who fail and persevere again in today's attempts to achieve and maintain intimacy. Finding love in the big city, we are reminded is not an easy task.

When he was around 25 Nate thought that women were unavailable - they were either in a relationship, didn't care to be in one or had set their sites on other goals. When he reached his 30's Nate thought he was surrounded by women who only cared about relationships. Then, at last he meets Hannah, a writer who seems to have been made in heaven just for him. But, will he be able to do everything (or at least most things) right this time around?

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. Is to be enjoyed - it's a contemporary comedy of manners filled with insights and penned in lovely prose. Can't wait to see what Adelle Waldman will come up with next.

- Gail Cooke
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 14 September 2013
If you like Woody Allen movies and smart east coast dialogue, and you don't object to a slender plot with an egocentric 'hero', then this is a début novel that might appeal.

Nate is the thirty-something intellectual son of immigrant parents. A promising writer, he lives in a seedy Brooklyn apartment, eking out the advance for his first novel which is about to be published. He keeps getting involved with attractive, clever women - as long as they're not cleverer than him. But he's suffering from a kind of ennui and has rather gone off the idea of further romantic entanglements; he just can't face the extrication process yet again. Ladies: keep your hands firmly by your sides - you *will* want to slap Nate. Here are some quotes to give you a flavour of the writing:

Nate, in response to his friend's order of a healthy pizza: "Maybe where you come from, they call that pizza. Here in the United States, we call it a grassy knoll."

"The park was a liberal integrationist's wet dream: multiracial, multiethnic, multiclass."

On a successful author: "Greer's manner of speaking was not merely flirty but flirty like a teenage girl with bubblegum in her mouth and a tennis skirt and tanned thighs."

This is Love and The City, and a rather enjoyable read it is too.
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An account largely of an unsuccessful relationship of Nathaniel P but with looks back to previous relationships and forward to something that looks more successful.

This is entirely credible - I found I could believe the account of the Brooklyn literary scene and Nathaniel's friends as well as in Nathaniel and his various girl friends. I also found it quite thought provoking.

But I didn't find it as entertaining as other readers - perhaps because I moved into would-be psychological analysis of what was making Nathaniel tick and why things were not working out for him.

The answer might be: he needs in a relationships someone with a very healthy narcissism such as he himself displays - a relationship is just not going to work if too much of the compromise is on one side.

That's quite a satisfying moral to walk away with - but then if I wanted to read narratives with morals of that kind, perhaps I should have been reading account of counselling or psychotherapy, not a novel about would-be novelists in Brooklyn.
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on 9 May 2014
I feel a shade sorry for Nathaniel Piven. There is a female novelist writing who appears to know almost more about him than he knows about himself. She knows about his thought processes, his (many) girlfriends, and his sexual proclivities (in rather more detail than seems absolutely necessary). She writes well and interestingly about his chosen profession, and about Brooklyn where he lives. She also presents her readers with some rather juicy stuff about the women he knows and has a cruel eye for the inadequacies of his friends and colleagues.
In the acknowledgements Adelle Waldman generously thanks a number of people who were involved in the creative process. As I know nothing much about New York (except what I have seen in old movies), and nothing at all about the latest generation of its inhabitants, I assume that her satire hits the mark. Even in my ignorance I enjoyed many amusing moments neatly described.
The reviewer in The Sunday Business Post offers terms such as "darker and more profound" and suggests that "this is a novel that anyone interested in how we live now should read". I agree. There is an almost nihilistic perception of humanity masked behind the astute observation, even a touch of desperation. But I have to be careful here as I am from a generation that prefers more implication and a less explicit approach and allowing more tolerance of human foibles that afforded by younger observers than myself.
Perhaps this novel is the latest version of romantic fiction. At least the hero appears to end the story with a very attractive companion.
The cover has an endorsement by Jonathan Franzen. That is good enough for me!
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 24 October 2013
A clever dissection of the dating game in New York City, this book is brilliantly perceptive about its central character, Nate, who has been around quite a lot, and has a number of ex-girlfriends and an unenviable reputation of letting them down. Along the way we are given his serial history of the women he was unable to find sufficiently interesting to continue with. Elisa is still, perhaps, a little in love with him, and he stays out of her orbit as much as he can as he can't bear the half-angry guilt she arouses in him, and the way she still wants to talk about what went wrong. Before Elisa there was Kristen, and before Kristen there was Juliet. Now, there is Hannah, a friend of Elisa's, We see most situations from Nate's point of view. He is an aspiring writer whose first novel has just been accepted by a publishing company. Naturally he has a number of friends, all culturally aware and not afraid of intellectualising themselves and their opinions like crazy. The most rebarbative of these friendships is with Jason, a Yale-ite, with a quick mind and a frank rather self-regarding attitude. But it is Nate who is centre stage at all points in this novel. He's attractive, amusing, impressive in his writing career, but he doesn't know how to counter the modern woman's all-annihilating desire for a relationship. At times it is almost as though he would rather live without a girlfriend, but then the prospect of sex raises it's head. Therefore he falls into situations with women led by momentary attraction, without regard for how he will get out of them.

Nate is not insensitive to his failures in sustaining a relationship. So when he hooks up with Hannah everything goes well for a few months, but then it's suddenly all changed, and he wants out. It strikes me that he is rather jaded. There seems to be an element of competition to this endless round of bedding and leaving, leaving and bedding. He tries to be what his women want, but he is so rigorously self-involved and witlessly narcissistic that he cannot sustain a relationship - even with Hannah, a woman more than willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and who, undoubtedly understands him, and in many ways is his equal.

These well-dressed, successful and culturally secure women are, at heart, too needy. It strikes me that he wants to try to love them, but it also strikes me that he doesn't know how. Somehow, the giving gene has gone astray. Here's how the shallow privileged live. Their lives have turned into half-lives. What can we take away from such an artfully constructed and beautifully adroit book? A good deal of enjoyment at any rate, together with the feeling that Nate may well be doomed to wallow forever in the single man's state unless he gains sufficient maturity to wake up and smell the latte.
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on 17 September 2013
I enjoyed the portrayal of literary 30-somethings as pompous entrepreneurial asses. But even if their poverty is not sugar-coated, the characters are still glorified. Oversimplified. Flat.

This book will be particularly interesting for aspiring literary debutantes in the cafe society of New York City -- even (and especially) if they never really plan to make it there.
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on 15 December 2013
Strange unconvincing book by a woman pretending to be a man who thinks he likes women but is actually nasty to them. He's also meant to be likeable but is actually a snob, not at ease with himself and superficial. I think the narrator thinks he is human and witty but I thought he was a shit, if we're allowed to say that. It crossed my mind that the character was gay but didn't realise it, which could have made the story more interesting, whereas, in fact, it is the lady author writing about male sexuality that provides this odd quality to the writing. Maybe I've misunderstood the double bluff and she (the writer) knows how vile he is but that doesn't come across.
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on 30 December 2015
I would have given this 3 stars, but for the OTT reviews it received, something which encouraged me to buy. Far too much tell in an account which irritates as much as it entertains. It come very close to being a C+ psychology essay, with moments of real insight although the transition out the relationship is moving. But, the so called intellectual discussions are paper thin and unconvincing as is the unintentionally funny account of how writers make a living (which seems to be stuck in the eighties). The rosy picture portrayed by the author, of essays earning months of income is a million miles from the current circumstance of writers, where even celebrity authors are forced to tour to scrape a meagre living.
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on 12 June 2014
This is a wonderful book. You might find it very funny, you might find it very sad, you might find it both.

The beauty of the writing and the razor sharp but sympathetic portrayal of the flawed characters is reminiscent of Jane Austen (the highest possible praise IMHO).

(Let's hope the film of the book is not as bad as the film of One Day)
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on 20 December 2014
The opening scene was the best one in the book. I quickly grew bored of the long paragraphs on politics and wannabe world and literature analysts. I didn't finish the book and found it mostly uninteresting. Only the first scene for me had that 'is that how a guy sees it' perspective and was short and sharp. The rest dragged on.
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