Book #101: What I Loved

Have you ever read a book that don’t mind while you’re reading it, but once you finish you feel sort of glad that it’s over?

That’s how I felt with What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt (who, by the way, is married to Paul Auster). It’s one of those novels that I think is almost pretentious, but isn’t totally pretentious, kind of like White Teeth or something by Jonathan Franzen.

(That said, it’s been recorded on this blog that I didn’t care for White Teeth and do not like the one book I’ve read by Jonathan Franzen.)

The book is about love and friendship, told through the eyes of an old art historian, looking back at his family’s relationship with another family. There is a lot of pretentious talk about art and literature, since the four adults in the novel are all writers, artists, or academics.

One of the men is a controversial artist in New York City, and Hustvedt takes great pleasure in describing all of his works in great detail, like she’s painting a picture of the paintings, sculptures, and other works he’s created. Often these descriptions were long and indulgent, and often they lost me. I’m not a very visual reader. I don’t often actually picture things in my head as I read, so pagelong descriptions of paintings or dioramas added little to the story for me, although I guess maybe they do for people who are really visual readers who are good at visualizing things they read about.

Also, I felt like the last section of the book was really unnecessary. Of course, this is when most of the plot actually happened, but for some reason it felt like it didn’t connect well with the rest of the book.

That sounds painfully vague, but it’s one of those character-driven books where there isn’t much plot, and the plot there is is really hard to succinctly describe.

All in all, I’d say that What I Loved is okay while you’re reading it, but I didn’t really take anything away from it, either positive or negative.

Rating: ***
Up Next: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn


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