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10 thoughts on “The Sorrows of an American

  1. Marc Marc says:

    I really enjoyed reading this book this is literature at its finest It contains no spectacular story and although it is a bit less captivating than the novel that I previously read from Hustvedt What I Loved this book is much balanced The focus lies almost completely on the inside of men and women our psychological relation with the world and other people the main character is a male psychiatrist Hustvedt outlines very fragile people struggling with all kinds of issues trauma and secrets sometimes validly sometimes not at all though that of course always is the view of an outsider What is striking is how much people keep silent about those issues they keep them hidden shielding them off While reading I often had to think of the novel The Echo Maker by Richard Powers which I read half a year ago This novel also outlines how strange the human brain works But the book of Hustvedt is much better managed and balancedHustvedt processed a number of autobiographical elements her Norwegian origin she also uses verbatim passages from the diary of her father and one of the side figures is also traumatized by the attacks of 11 september 2001 but fortunately that does not get too much attention though the title might suggest otherwise it isn’t the real focus but then again those few pages are really poignantI especially love the very balanced style of Hustvedt and her subtle way of looking at people stressing the fragility of human beings Some passages such as psychiatrist Eric dealing with the little daughter of his downstairs neighbour are captivatingly beautiful and endearing What’s – but maybe it's just my personal interpretation – I have the impression that Hustvedt's message is each of us struggles with issues and disappointments in life and sometimes outright trauma but the most effective medicine for this is not so spectacular some attention care and affection Perhaps they don’t offer a real cure or solution but at least some relief and leniency Or is that too much asked for?

  2. Ceci Ceci says:

    I did enjoy this book and all the myriad stories and mysteries within but as the end neared I found myself liking it less and less That was mainly due to the many narrative anticlimaxes I wonder if they were meant to effect the reader that way but it would have been lovely if at least a few of them had shaken the earth caused a flutter of the heart or at least aroused some interest or delight Alas they did not I actually wish that one of the two great mysteries what was in Max's letters or what happened between Lars and Lisa had been left unsolved rather than giving it an answer as flat as the ones provided were The story closest to me among the many that crisscrossed throughout the narrative was that of Miranda the narrator's lodger I loved reading about her past her Caribbean roots and heritage her strange dreams and the fierce paintings she created with she monsters from those dreams However like Eric we are left behind a closed door granted only glimpses of Miranda's existence and wonderful mindIn a sense that is a key to the main theme of the novel This book is as much about loneliness sadness the sense of loss privacy and that which is hidden and locked away in our past as it is about family ties and connectedness We are all alone and we feel the weight of out past and our ancestors upon our shoulders The dreams are often the most revelatory parts of the story as is apt for the psychoanalyst narrator ErikAnother character that I really liked was Eric's sister Inga the famous author's widow One of the reasons why I felt so close to her was her migraine tendency It'd always given her strange visions angelic lights odd sensations and voices these are phenomena I know all too well suffering from hereditary aural migraines Extreme emotions also give me a migraine be they happiness or pain That too is a mystery of a kind a strange illness carried on by blood and relationThe ending of the book was a real letdown The part that should have made the reader fall in love with the tale only served to alienate Hustvedt tied all the narrative threads completely in vain explained things that could have been left for the reader to interpret and carried on the story when it should have ended The book has three or four different possible endings and yet the author carries on with the narrative It's a rare skill to know when to stop and some writers can't do it neither can certain filmmakers I believe she may have grown too attached her characters which may or may not be based on her family and herself and was thus unable to let go but to drag them behind her through yet one emotional trap was unnecessary and uninteresting too I still enjoyed the novel and would have loved it even with a different ending one that came uite a few pages earlier With less explaining and a lot magic

  3. Hugh Hugh says:

    This book has further cemented Siri Hustvedt's place as one of my favourite writers and this book is one of her best Part of the story is based on and uotes her father's memoirs of life among Norwegian immigrants in rural Minnesota and his experiences in the war this is interwoven with a complex modern story centred on the narrator a psychotherapist in New York Hustvedt's characters are fully realised flawed and human The book is largely concerned with loss memory and how perceptions of even the closest family and friends can be affected by secrets As in several of her other books notably What I Loved and The Blazing World her interest in psychology philosophy literature and art shine through and it is compulsive readable moving and thought provoking To finish with a uote There is music in dialogue mysterious harmonies and dissonances that vibrate in the body like a tuning fork

  4. Tony Johnston Tony Johnston says:

    In a word awful In a few wordsSecrets bloody secrets I should have given up when the first few lines warned me that the book was based on lots of secrets Oh yes we have secrets Lots of silly secrets Mysteries too Hidden things Dark stuff that will keep you reading Well not me The style setting and turgid plot meant that I couldn't even be bothered to turn to the last pages to find out what the truth was before casting the book aside at p65 And I hate giving up Also couldn't believe the lead characters gender I am not at all wanting to suggest that the book is about gender but frankly he was just not like any man I know His motives and behavior were all so very different from what I know of men myself included In my experience men don't generally desire a woman by wanting to nuzzle the back of their nose Or perhaps I am just some sort of unreconstructed gorillaSo secrets can be good plot devices But they are no substitute for a plot

  5. Neil Neil says:

    Although it is very obviously a very different book I often found myself thinking of Richard Powers' The Echo Maker as I read this Both deal with the way the mind works the tricks it plays on us Both make mention of Capgras' syndrome it's the key plot element in Powers but is mentioned in Hustvedt Both are post 911 books Both make at least veiled references to The Wizard of Oz It is also true that Hustvedt writes intelligently and beautifully as does PowersThere are a lot of characters in this book A few times I was glad I was reading it on my Kindle where I could simply press on a character's name and see all the previous references to them it helped me keep characters and their part in the story clear and I think I might have got confused in a paper version Chalk one up for the KindleIt's not just because of the multiple characters but you really do have to keep your wits about you as you read this book The structure jumps between different plot elements uite freely and often without giving away the change of focus immediately It also jumps around in time with excerpts from the narrator's father's journal mixed in with the other story lines These journal entries gain extra poignancy when an afterword explains they are genuine extracts from Hustvedt's father's journal copied into the book with barely any changes Hustvedt also discusses some intellectual topics which mean you need to concentrate as you readBut the joy of the book is the characters that Hustvedt creates They all have their own characters and voices they all draw the reader in and become very real I've only read one other Hustvedt book The Blazing World and the main character from that still lives vividly in my memory after a few years I think some of the characters in this book will live with me for uite some time too which is a testament to the skill of Hustvedt's writingAll in all this was a thoroughly enjoyable read for me Some reviews I've seen since I finished it I try not to read reviews until after I've read a book expressed disappointment at a sense of anti climax I didn't feel that at all as I read it I enjoyed the way the different story lines developed and climaxed I will definitely read of her books

  6. Ron Charles Ron Charles says:

    Siri Hustvedt's new novel is difficult to summarize and hard to recommend Its intricate plot in two different time frames splinters in complicated creepy even absurd ways Its narrator is stuck in a state of anhedonia an inability to experience joy or pleasure Its themes bombard us with psychoanalytic theory avant garde films and KierkegaardBut I think I'm in loveDespite everything about The Sorrows of an American that makes it sound repellent this is one of the most profound and absorbing books I've read in a long time Hustvedt pushes hard on what a novel can do and what a reader can absorb but once you fall into this captivating story the experience will make you feel alternately inadeuate and brilliant and finally deeply gratefulHer thoughtful protagonist Erik Davidsen is a psychiatrist in New York divorced childless and chronically lonely His father a history professor has recently died in Minnesota leaving behind several boxes of personal papers including letters and an unpublished memoir While sorting through these effects a few days after the funeral Erik and his sister Inga find a short vague note that seems to implicate their father in a woman's death at least 50 years agoTracking down the details of that event a tragedy? a crime? becomes a low level crusade for Erik and his sister when they return to Brooklyn Their father's mystery however is uickly subsumed by other complications In a frenzy of intellectual insight Inga begins a new book about the history of philosophical breakthroughs but she's being harassed by a seedy journalist who reveals lurid details about her late husband a prominent writer and filmmaker I've suddenly discovered that I've lived another life she tells Erik I mean now I have to rewrite my own story redo it from the bottom up The challenge is how to do that while protecting her teenage daughter who's still haunted by the horrors she witnessed on Sept 11Erik is determined to help his sister and niece but crushing loneliness threatens to disrupt his practice which is shown in a series of fascinating sessions with his patients people desperate to rewrite their life stories My solitude had gradually begun to alter me he tells us to turn me into a man I had not expected a person far peculiar than I had ever imagined On top of all this he's falling in love with a single mother named Miranda who rents his first floor apartment She doesn't return his affection but she needs him Her deranged ex husband is leaving stacks of defaced photos at the door images that document her life and eventually include Erik too in private unguarded momentsAll these complications sprawl out in ominous often exciting ways Hustvedt seems unwilling to turn away any tangential character; she practices a kind of authorial hospitality that gives the book an ever growing list of side stories Not the least of these is told in arresting excerpts from the memoir by Erik's father that describes his childhood during the Depression and his experiences as a soldier in World War II Erik studies this manuscript with rapt attention knowing it contains the best chance of understanding his heritage and perhaps his own troubled soul as wellHustvedt reveals in the acknowledgments that these stirring passages from the senior Davidsen's memoir were in fact taken almost verbatim from her own late father's memoir making The Sorrows of an American a striking demonstration of its own theme the blending of fiction and nonfiction that gives coherence to our lives Telling always binds one thing to another Erik thinks We want a coherent world not one in bits and piecesThis of course is what Erik's father was trying to find or create By becoming a historian of his own immigrant past Erik explains he had found a way to return home again and again Like countless neurologists psychiatrists and analysts I know who suffer from the very ailments they hope to cure in others my father had relieved the raw sore inside him through the work he had chosen He had archived innumerable diaries letters newspaper articles books recipes drawings notebooks and photographs of a dying world His was an illness that besets the intellectual the indefatigable will to mastery Chronic and incurable it afflicts those who lust after a world that makes senseTo demonstrate that point Hustvedt elegantly knits together these subplots often from different genres elements of the thriller the hospital drama the historical novel and even the spy caper and noir film along with autobiography philosophy letters case studies and art criticism Even Miranda's little girl gets in the act winding kite string around the apartment striving with disastrous results to tie everything togetherThis is a radically postmodern novel that wears its po mo credentials with unusual grace; even at its strangest moments it never radiates the chilly alienation that marks say the work of Hustvedt's husband Paul Auster The remarkable conclusion of The Sorrows is a four page recapitulation of the story's images racing through Erik's mind and ours It's a stunning Joycean demonstration that invites us to impose some sense of meaning on a disparate collection of events to satisfy our lust for a world that makes sense I reached the end emotionally and intellectually exhausted knowing how much I'll miss this book

  7. I. Merey I. Merey says:

    This is a tall white intelligent pleasant and faintly dull novelErik D is a tall white intelligent pleasant and faintly dull therapist He's middle aged divorced and wondering if he'll always stay lonely when life starts taking some bizarre turnsHe's getting lightly stalked by a photographer once involved with a lady who now lives in his building His sister Inga is embroiled with her deceased novelist husband's ex lovermuse who is threatening to sell their old love letters And both David and Inga are compelled to track down a woman haunting their deceased father's Midwestern farmhoodThere's a lot of the deceased in this book a lot of skeletons in the closet ghosts of Christmases present and past I enjoyed Hustvedt's style and the way she managed to weave these and threads together to make a believable cross section of a white collar family who wasn't always so The themes of memory psychology immigration creativity and family were compelling but the revelations in the last twenty pages were flat At one point the narrator reflects that he may be too 'tamed' to be of romantic interest to his intriguing neighborHis fear sums up the book for me perfectly in one word tamed Like him competent thoughtful but too tamed Sadly no one character or secret or sentence of Hustvedt's pushed to that beyond point I kept hoping for

  8. Natalie Natalie says:

    This is a 35 for me but this is my fourth Hustvedt in a row and two of them were particularly brilliantThere are so many reviews on here and I agree with the criticisms regarding the multiple plots and the male character having a female voice I was mostly bored by Erik's fathers memoirs but when I got to the end I saw that they were Hustvedt's fathers memoirs and she asked him whilst he was dying if she could reproduce them In turn the character of the uncle was taken from real life too Max was so much of her husband Auster Inga obviously her Sonia her real life daughter Sophieand her grief over her father dying in real life palpableThose things considered it's a very personal work and beautiful in that sense

  9. Joan Winnek Joan Winnek says:

    I found this book complex and engrossing with a number of richly developed characters the narrator Erik his sister Inga her daughter Sonia Erik's tenant Miranda and her daughter Eggy I appreciate the psychological insights which include an appreciation of the effects of traumatic experience on the teenaged Sophie the 5 year old Eggy and the long ago 2 year old Lisa who is now an old and peculiar woman It is a book I know I will want to read again

  10. Teresa Teresa says:

    Readers of Hustvedt's novels will recognize the themes in this novel the nature of art including photography and the issue of privacy which reminded me of The Blindfold and a diorama with dolls reminding me of Bill Weschler's box art creations in What I Loved; small town life the same cafe as in The Enchantment of Lily Dahl appears as well as a couple of eccentrics which The Enchantment of Lily Dahl is full of versus New York City What I Loved; the nature of I with this and maybe even in part of a subplot I also thought of her husband's novels specifically Leviathan; and gender roles are also touched on briefly though not nearly to the extent as they are in The Blindfold Even the narrator of What I Loved makes a cameo appearance in this novel These repetitive themes and issues are what she does Her husband Paul Auster does similar I don't have a problem with that But I didn't like this book nearly as much as her other novels I wasn't drawn in or engaged in it as I was with the others I think the narrative voice may have had a lot to do with that especially in the beginning I don't think this one will stay with meThe narrator's father was only interesting to me because except for the sorrow and moodiness he was a lot like my own father Her description of him as someone the hospital staff loved because of his being a humorist and a stoic fit my own father perfectly Even their deaths were somewhat similar But without that connection I wonder if I would've found him interesting at all as I thought much of his story was rather dull or at least rendered dully

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The Sorrows of an American ❮PDF / Epub❯ ☂ The Sorrows of an American ✎ Author Siri Hustvedt – The Sorrows of an American is a soaring feat of storytelling about the immigrant experience and the ghosts that haunt families from one generation to anotherWhen Erik Davidsen and his sister Inga find The Sorrows of an American of an PDF/EPUB ã is a soaring feat of storytelling about the immigrant experience and the ghosts that haunt families from one generation to anotherWhen Erik Davidsen and his The Sorrows Epub / sister Inga find a disturbing note from an unknown woman among their dead father’s papers they believe he may be implicated in a mysterious death.

  • Hardcover
  • 306 pages
  • The Sorrows of an American
  • Siri Hustvedt
  • English
  • 10 July 2014
  • 9780805079081

About the Author: Siri Hustvedt

Paul Auster Hustvedt employs a of an PDF/EPUB ã use of repetitive themes or symbols throughout her work Most notably the use of certain types of voyeurism often linking objects of the dead to The Sorrows Epub / characters who are relative strangers to the deceased characters most notable in various facits in her novels.