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.
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.
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.
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".
Darra W. (Walnut Creek, CA)
Don't be mislead by the title...
Although it begins with what would appear to be the familiar "husband leaves wife for younger woman and look what happens next" scenario, this is no fluffy, escapist, chick-lit stuff. Instead (yes!!) it is an intelligent, well-written, thought-provoking--and often close-to-the-bone--examination of women at various stages in their lives. I'll forgive the one-subplot-too-many (the young neighbor) for the gift Hustvedt gives us in Mia's mother and the other Four Swans.
I can't remember the last time I read a book with so many out-loud "oh!" moments. Book clubs will find tons to discuss.
Irene B. (Denton, TX)
The summer without men
A great book. This writer has an understanding of the female mind and how we react to not so pleasant situations - most of the time. I think that she did a great job of depicting the feelings of different age groups. I will read this book again.
Mary P. (Church Road, VA)
Chick Lit DEEP
The Summer Without Men is a dense, witty, feminist exploration of gender through literature, philosphy and neuroscience, and secondarily through the eyes of the 50-something narrator Mia as she retreats to her hometown after a nervous breakdown prompted by her husband's midlife-crisis affair with a (naturally!) younger woman. This is a very intellectual book--the reader, if interested, may find herself pausing frequently to "Google" obscure Latin phrases, unfamiliar contemporary poets, and, frankly, for me, hitherto unheard-of sociobiologists and antique if not ancient Men (ironic emphasis on "men") of Learning. Don't be intimidated, though! While occasionally the book seems less like a novel and more like a feminist lecture or outright rant, it's wry and humorous and there's just enough (somewhat banal) "outside" touching the "inside" to keep the pages turning. I was strongly reminded of Marilyn French's excellent 70s-era novel The Women's Room and think that any readers' group with a focus on women's issues would greatly enjoy The Summer Without Men.