"And who among us would deny Jane Austen her happy endings or insist that Cary Grant and Irene Dunne should get back together at the end of The Awful Truth? There are tragedies and there are comedies, aren't there? And they are often more the same than different, rather like men and women, if you ask me. A comedy depends on stopping the story at exactly the right moment."
Mia Fredrickson, the wry, vituperative, tragic comic, poet narrator of The Summer Without Men, has been forced to reexamine her own life. One day, out of the blue, after thirty years of marriage, Mia's husband, a renowned neuroscientist, asks her for a "pause." This abrupt request sends her reeling and lands her in a psychiatric ward. The June following Mia's release from the hospital, she returns to the prairie town of her childhood, where her mother lives in an old people's home. Alone in a rented house, she rages and fumes and bemoans her sorry fate. Slowly, however, she is drawn into the lives of those around her - her mother and her close friends, "the Five Swans," and her young neighbor with two small children and a loud angry husband - and the adolescent girls in her poetry workshop whose scheming and petty cruelty carry a threat all their own.
From the internationally bestselling author of What I Loved comes a provocative, witty, and revelatory novel about women and girls, love and marriage, and the age-old question of sameness and difference between the sexes.
"Instead of being another novel of a woman on the brink, this becomes an adroit take on love, men and women, and girls and women." - Publishers Weekly
"Lighthearted but not lightweight - a smart, sassy reflection on the varieties of female experience." - Kirkus Reviews
"Starred Review. What joy to see Hustvedt... have such mordant fun in this saucy and scathing novel about men and women, selfishness and generosity. In Mia, Hustvedt has created a companionable and mischievous narrator to cherish, a healthy-minded woman of high intellect, blazing humor, and boundless compassion." - Donna Seaman, Booklist
"[A] book that shines with intellectual curiosity and emotional integrity." - The Guardian (UK)
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Rated of 5
Shawna L. (Idaho Falls, Idaho)
The Summer Without Men by Siri Hustvedt
Mia Fredrickson describes herself as a “madwoman” after her husband Boris requests a “pause” in their relationship. The "pause" is a much younger French woman. She is intelligent and attractive with “significant breasts that were real”. Alone for the first time in years Mia feels like her life is has been missing something. Soon she will find out just what that something is.
All alone and without her husband Mia becomes drawn into the lives of those around her. Her mother, with her group of Motherly female friends, provides a constant source of support for Mia, but also gives her a poignant look into the future. Her daughter Daisy is full of the youthful exuberance Mia has lost somewhere down the line during the last 55 years.
The family next door suffice as Mia's daily soap opera with their slamming doors and loud hideous swearing. After another stormy night the abusive husband leaves and Mia offers her neighbor Lola comfort and solace in her home.
As Mia begins to deal with her own loss and finding that something she is missing. A class of seven teenage girls await her. They are full of all the viciousness and ugliness that is so prevalent in pubescent girls. Mia's poetry workshop turns out to be the perfect environment for the emergence of ghoulish behavior she has been missing and needing in her life.
This is a sophisticated and complex novel. There are phrases that have to be read again just for their sheer depth and beauty.
The Summer Without Men is a story for women about women or men who don't understand women. Mia and Lola both suffer mistreatment at the hands of the men in theirs lives. However the men are insignificant in this novel. Ultimately it is about the strength of women and their ability to draw strength from each other. They are able piece together the missing parts of their lives they didn't know they had lost.
Rated of 5
Cheryl P. (Kansas City, MO)
Poetry within Prose
Beautifully written... loved the smattering of poetry throughout the book.
I wondered if "Mr. Nobody" is a nod to the work of Emily Dickinson?
This would be a fabulous book club read for women of all ages. This novel literally contains a "cradle to grave" spectrum of characters.
They are grappling with issues which are inherent to the female human condition - and the author manages to convey both the humor and the sadness of their story with great eloquence.
Rated of 5
Carmen S. (solomons, MD)
The Summer without Men
I thought that this book was going to be powerful when I had to put the book down after reading 3 pages. I was reliving my past and it didn't feel good! However, I was disappointed in the book. I thought it was disjointed. Hustvedt introduced characters and then by the time she got back to them, I found myself having to go back and try to remember who they were. I think that including Mia's poetry to tie thoughts together was novel, but ineffective. My biggest complaint was the author's vocabulary. I have a pretty fair grasp of words and their meanings but found that I had to stop repeatedly and look up words. I quickly began to wonder if she purposely used words that I'm sure most readers would not know. That added to the disjointed feeling although, with a Kindle, the reader would have instant access to the dictionary so the flow of the story might be more successful. And, finally, I thought the ending was disappointing, but fairly realistic.
Rated of 5
Shelley C. (Eastport, NY)
The Summer Without Men
I really liked this book a lot. The writing was excellent and the story extremely compelling. As a former teacher, I especially appreciated the way the children who were bullies were dealt with.
Rated of 5
Marion W. (Issaquah, WA)
Without Men, and Managing Well!
Psychically shocked by her husband's betrayal, Mia becomes involved in teaching a poetry class for adolescent girls, getting acquainted with her aging mother's friends, and helping the young woman next door who struggles with a hot-tempered spouse and two young kids. In so doing, Mia encounters the full spectrum of womanhood. (In fact, this book reminded me of the Gustav Klimt painting, "The Three Ages of Women.") Each female met causes Mia to reflect upon her own life, and events once faced or yet to be faced.
This novel stretches the brain: there are many references to philosophy, literature, religion, films, psychiatry. Sometimes it can make for uncomfortable reading, but it ends up comforting, because, happily, Mia's various roles as observer/crisis counselor/listener evolve into a healing process for one recently wounded. A good selection for middle-aged readers especially.
Rated of 5
Lynda L. (Sahuarita, Arizona)
The Summer Without Men
Only a mere 182 pages, this novel is a delightful dynamo dealing with numerous issues that affect girls and women from childhood to the elderly. Do not let the title of the book fool you. Men, although not always present physically, are present in relationships with their women. The poetry, cartoon characters and the anonymous tormentor called Mr./Mrs. Nobody provided relief from serious situations. This novel was not only a wonderful read, it gave a whole new insight to the word "pause".
Siri Hustvedt is the author of the novels, The Blindfold, The Enchantment of Lily Dahl, What I Loved, The Summer Without Men and The Blazing World; as well as three collections of essays, A Plea for Eros, Mysteries of the Rectangle: Essays on Painting, and Living, Thinking, Looking; as well as the nonfiction work: The Shaking Woman or A History of My Nerves. What I Loved and The Summer Without Men were international bestsellers. Her work has been shortlisted for numerous awards, including the Femina Etranger in France, and she is the recipient of the 2012 International Gabarron Prize for Thought and Humanities. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, Paul Auster.
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