A provocative, wildly funny, intellectually rigorous and engrossing novel, punctuated by Siri Hustvedt's own illustrations - a tour de force by one of America's most acclaimed and beloved writers.
Fresh from Minnesota and hungry for all New York has to offer, twenty-three-year-old S.H. embarks on a year that proves both exhilarating and frightening - from bruising encounters with men to the increasingly ominous monologues of the woman next door.
Forty years on, those pivotal months come back to vibrant life when S.H. discovers the notebook in which she recorded her adventures alongside drafts of a novel. Measuring what she remembers against what she wrote, she regards her younger self with curiosity and often amusement. Anger too, for how much has really changed in a world where the female presidential candidate is called an abomination?
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 and won the Los Angeles Times
Book Prize for Fiction. 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 or 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.
She delivered the Schelling Lecture in Aesthetics in Munich in 2010, the Freud Lecture in Vienna in 2011 and the opening keynote at the conference to mark Kierkegaard's 200th anniversary in Copenhagen in 2013, while her latest honorary doctorate is from the University of Gutenburg in Germany. She is also Lecturer in Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College and has written on art for the New York Times, the Daily Telegraph and several exhibition catalogues.
A multilayered portrait of the artist as a young woman . . . S. H. lays an array of selves, fictive and autobiographical, over each other like transparencies, to reveal deeper patterns. The fallibility of memory, madness and the artistic process are all incisively traced, but male entitlement emerges as the most insistent motif . . . Hustvedt has the imaginative mastery to encase complex ideas in the flesh and blood needed to render them visceral.
Observer - Benjamin Evans
Provocative and mysterious, this fictionalised portrait of the author as a young woman is comic and sensual as well as thematically meaty, touching on memory, witchcraft and male violence.
Mail on Sunday - Hephzibah Anderson
This is playful, self-referential, cerebral stuff . . . [the] unlikely combination comes off marvellously, like a freewheeling doodle by an artist who has spent years perfecting their craft. The humorous, wise voice of SH holds everything lightly together with clever observations on writing, time and imagination.
Sunday Times - Claire Lowdon
A portrait of the artist, certainly, and of New York in the 1970s, which Hustvedt joyously depicts as hot, dirty and cacophonous. But it's also far more than that. As layered as a millefeuille, as dense and knotted as tapestry, it feels, by the time you reach the final pages, less like a novel and more like an intellectual reckoning; an act of investigation into how, as a woman, it is possible to live well in the world, and enter effectively into the conversation about it. It's a mark of Hustvedt's thoroughgoing intelligence that the idea of investigation is another of the novel's explicit themes, as well as an aspect of its undertaking . . . [a] teasing, complex, disconcerting novel
Guardian - Sarah Crown
[Hustvedt] writes beautifully on memory . . . And she captures the power of past narrative to shape a life to come . . . This is a book that merits rereading, not least because it's trying to build something new . . . Hustvedt's novelistic renovation is nostalgic and brave in equal measure. She's made just enough architectural moves to make you look at the space anew.
Daily Telegraph - Sophie Ratcliffe
Reading a Hustvedt novel is like consuming the best of David Lynch on repeat . . . [SH's] gauche girl detective persona conceals (of course) a formidable intellect roving among Hustvedt's favoured subjects of neuroscience, philosophy, literature and gender, and what is most interesting in the book is to see how that gradually assimilates with events around her . . . Ideas somersault nimbly in the novel as memoir jostles with memories . . . both SH and her creator appear, in this intense, high-spirited Bildungsroman, to have come full circle.
Financial Times - Catherine Taylor
Captivating, smart and witty
Stylist - Hayley Thompson
Few contemporary writers are as satisfying and stimulating to read as Siri Hustvedt. Her sentences dance with the elation of a brilliant intellect romping through a playground of ideas, and her prose is just as lively when engaged in the development of characters and story. Her wonderful new novel is, among other things, a meditation on memory, selfhood and aging . . . an intricate, multiform text similar in its freewheeling, postmodern structure to Hustvedt's previous masterpiece, The Blazing World. . . how much of this is autobiographical doesn't matter. Any material drawn from the writer's life has been triumphantly transmuted into fiction that skillfully weaves disparate narrative strands into a vast tapestry encompassing personal, political and cultural struggle.
Washington Post - Wendy Smith
Wise, graceful and often formidably bracing
Metro - Paul Connolly
The reader has simply to play along, enjoying the deft and elegant writing while appreciating Hustvedt's timely exploration of questions about authenticity, memory and demarcations of literary genre . . . Writing with the swing and energy of a Parisian prose poet, Hustvedt re-creates her younger self as an eager New York City flneuse . . . Gender politics is what gives this book its energy . . . She deftly masters postmodern fictional techniques while also tapping into the broader liberal humanist tradition and placing feminism in that context. She's a 21st-century Virginia Woolf, with many intellectual and creative rooms of her own - including a delightful talent for drawing cartoons, a host of which appear throughout her book.
Literary Review - Carol Rumens