What I Loved Hardcover – 20 Jan 2003
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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
What I Loved restored my faith in novels featuring artistic endeavour, which too often fall prey to pretentiousness. Her central characters are undoubtedly middle-class creatures with cerebral concerns but their lives encompass real suffering too, which makes them more accessible ... This is 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)
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)
Hustvedt writes with chilling intensity, and with an intimate knowledge of New York. (Kate Chisholm, Telegraph)
A gripping intellectual read (Hugo Barnacle, New Statesman)
[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)
You feel that Hustvedt can't help but use words with style and verve. The New York that oozes from her pages is dazzling, sexy, darkly lit. But this is also a big, wide, sensuous novel-clever, sinister, yet attractively real. It lives and breathes and never apologises for itself...It's a genuinely disturbing urban thriller - there's violence, duplicity, murder and erotica - but it's also satisfyingly weighed down with the heft of marital and parental relationships and, maybe most importantly, with a profound and intelligent dialogue about love. Most impressively of all perhaps, Hustvedt takes us deeply and convincingly into the psyches of all these people, not only exploring what makes them tick emotionally (plenty of good writers can do that) but also dissecting the very impulse that makes them into artists and thinkers (far harder and rarer). In fact she writes with astonishing daring and clarity about the artisitic spark itself, the desire to search for meaning where there seems to be none, the need to create questions, even when there can probably be no answers. As a result, the intricacies of the relationships she depicts, the fragile sexual landscapes - whether comic and wobbly or romantically sweeping - snag at your heart. The descriptions of Bill's paintings and sculptures (endless and astoundingly detailed) are done with real conviction and never for one moment seem tedious or superfluous...Hustvedt's real achievement is to push the boundaries of the novel further, by making something of such sheer, daunting and inspiring largeness. 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, The Guardian)
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)
A consummately intelligent novel, highly literate but also intensely moving. It's impossible to read this superbly assured work about friendship, betrayal and love without weeping, because she manages so successfully to make you care about her characters and their disturbingly sad story. (Jackie McGlone, The Scotsman)
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.
Defiantly complex and frequently dazzling ... it teases and taxes its reader with problems of meaning and personal identity on almost every page ... With what seems like obvious enjoyment, [Hustvedt] creates an oeuvre for Bill. His range of work deepens and changes direction over time, leaving us with a real sense of the magpie tendencies of the creative mind, and exists against a convincing and often amusing rendering of the New York art scene in the 1970s and 1980s. But, like the art she describes, Hustvedt's novel also metamorphoses: into the moving story of the grief and disarray that follow a family loss; into a grippingly madcap thriller ... and into a peculiarly obsessional meditation on the nature of the boundaries between human beings and the power - or lack of power - that art and its interpretation has to mediate and elide them. The narrative throbs with the energy of repeated and refined ideas, with the tension between interior and exterior lives, with a series of mirror images and doubles that exist in an elegant symmetry, and with sudden changes in pace and subject matter that bring to it an almost shape-shifting quality ... Hustvedt's special skill (and the talent that makes this a truly memorable novel) is that we never escape the feeling that her intellectual hoops are being jumped through by real people. In that, she has pulled off a trick far more difficult than many contemporary novels admit: she has created a conceptually exciting work that demands we think, but which still allows us room to feel. (Alex Clark, Sunday Times)
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)
Apart from her completely riveting plot and memorable characterisation, her novel is fascinating for her insights into the mechanics of the art world and the way artists disport themselves as well as their philosophies. The cool, clean lines of her prose are a disciplined delight. Her great skill though lies in the unravelling of her charcters who react to stress and sadness in different and credible ways.
Above all, the ultimate joy of this book is the discovery of a fresh and original new talent.
Hustvedt incorporates questions of aesthetics and a profound consideration of artistic imperatives into her study of two full and often dramatic lives and a deeply satisfying friendship ... addictive (Nina Caplan, Metro London)
With What I Loved, the novelist confronts the beauty and terror of an era. (Journal du dimanche)
Essential and intangible things escape from this dense, sensual and melancholy novel: passion, desire... friendship, schizophrenia, lies and treachery. (Le Figaro)
It is a great, ambitious work, bith a novel of ideas and a novel of characters, in which not a single line seems extraneous. Consummately intellectual, and exploring themes as disparate as mental illness, eating disorders, erotica, drugs, murder and modern art, it is also intensely - at times achingly - moving... expertly executed, with none of the mawkishness that tends to afflict so much contemporary writing. The first part of the book is slow-moving and richly atmospheric. (Jennifer O'Connell, Sunday Business Post)
What I Loved is a book of rare density, that ones loves unconditionally. (Elle)
What I Loved - an energetic, rich novel where ideas and theses are interwoven amongst the destinies of people who are being slowly crushed by life. (L'Express)
If her novelistic universe has grown in density and weight, her writing has not lost its truthfulness, sensitivity, her subtle perception of imaginary dimensions...the dominant feeling when one closes this book is one of great serenity. (Marie-Claire)
At the same time as dealing with cerebral considerations, Siri Hustvedt's novel is anchored in a very strong reality. (Presse Regionale)
Siri Hustvedt is a magnificent writer. (Paris Vogue)
Siri Hustvedt.., subtly expresses all the ambiguity of an emotion that is at once the origin and symptom of our personal perversities. (Les Inrockuptibles)
The narrative throbs with the energy of repeated and refined ideas, with the tension between interior and exterior lives, with a series of mirror images and doubles that exist in an elegant symmetry, and with sudden changes in pace and subject matter that bring to it an almost shape-shifting quality... [Hustvedt] has created a conceptually exciting work that demands we think, but which still allows us room to feel. (Alex Clark, Sunday Times)
Hustvedt is a consummate storyteller who is very much connected to desires and physicality, here revealing a greatly compassionate yet strictly unsentimental understanding of human relations. [She] writes with impressive lucidity. (The List, Glasgow)
A novel of such complexity and power that when you get to the end of it you feel the process of deciphering has only just begun. (Noonie Minogue, Times Literary Supplement)
After a slow but engrossing start... WHAT I LOVED becomes a page-turning psychological thriller... seductive and threatening. (Carole Morin, Scotland on Sunday)
A New York novel of real class - one of the best books of 2003... so far. (Sunday Herald)
A cool, intriguing book. (Arminta Wallace, Irish Times)
Hustvedt's unshowy prose will guide you through a maze of thought-provoking ideas (Literary Review) See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
I found this book extremely moving as a study of friendship, relationships, family and grief. The novel moves towards it's conclusion slowly, almost imperceptibly, and the story changes into a mystery, which Leo feels compelled to unravel. This is beautifully written and Leo an interesting narrator. I think this novel would have much to offer reading groups and enjoyed it very much; both the story and characters will stay with me for a long while.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Boring, over long descriptions of artwork but eventually the characters take shape. A detailed and interesting analysis of loss, grief and how individuals are affected by it and... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
Beautifully written. You have to lose yourself in the story and it is so worth itPublished 7 months ago by santP
Really didn't think this would be my kind of thing. I'm much more into fantasy / sci-fi, but my book-club decided it would be our next. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Adam K.
Siri Hustvedt’s What I Loved tracks the intertwined fates of two couples in 1970s to 1990s New York. Read morePublished 10 months ago by reader 451
A very sensitively written story of the close friendship of two ageing artistic American couples, and the close relationship to each others sons, with a very dramatic ending.Published 11 months ago by mr fritz berent
Siri Hustvedt is my favourite writer. Her observations of life both conscious and unconscious are intelligent and wise. Read morePublished 12 months ago by T Harvey
It’s hard to explain why this is such a great read. It’s a novel with no back-cover blurb that invites you to begin on the strength of the title, the cover, the plethora of... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Bobbie
Find this heavy going but not got into it properly yet. Hope it improves, but maybe its my frame of mind at the moment!Published 13 months ago by Pat Clapp