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?
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
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
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, Huswedt re-creates her younger self an eager New York City flaneuse . . . Gender politics is what gives this book its energy . . . Her style is elegant and pragmatic. 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
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
Among the many riches of Siri Hustvedt's portrait of a young woman finding her way as an artist are her reflections on how acts of remembering, if they reach deep enough, can heal the broken present, as well as on the inherent uncanniness of feeling oneself brought into being by the writing hand. Her reflections are no less profound for being couched as philosophical comedy of a Shandean variety. - J. M. Coetzee
Hustvedt is that rarest of beasts: a deeply intellectual writer whose work is joyful and not intimidating in the slightest. This is terrific - The Bookseller
Captivating, smart and witty - Stylist
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.