What I Loved, Siri Hustvedt, Henry Holt and Company, 2003, 367 pp
Siri Hustvedt is married to author Paul Auster and is an amazing writer. This novel combines art, artists, friends, crime and psychology, all set in New York City and though it is something of a thriller, the pace ebbs and flows between page turner and literary beauty.
In 1975, art historian Leo Hertzberg begins a friendship with painter Bill Wechsler. They both marry and each has a son. The families, including both of Bill's wives, remain friends for 25 years. Through joys and tragedies, triumph and degradation, impossible heartbreak and two deaths, these people connect, love, despair, work out their collective and individual destinies but never find lasting happiness. Ultimately the story is a tragedy but the characters are so vibrant and the moments of joy so intense, that I found the novel to be life affirming without one shred of sentimentality. Once again, my kind of novel.
The keynote to it all is friendship and everything that true friendship entails is examined in intricate detail. The story is told by Leo. Hustvedt is equally at ease with male and female characters. There are long, impressive passages describing Bill's art, where she takes on the voice of a reverent art critic/historian herself. Bill's son is a deeply troubled individual, so she does psychology like a pro as well. Very impressive, so moving and I never wanted the story to end.
(What I Loved is available in paperback by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore. To find it in your nearest indie bookstore, click on the cover image above.)