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What I Loved: A Novel
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What I Loved: A Novel

3.98 of 5 stars 3.98  ·  rating details  ·  7,610 ratings  ·  680 reviews
A powerful and heartbreaking novel that chronicles the epic story of two families, two sons, and two marriages
What I Loved begins in New York in 1975, when art historian Leo Hertzberg discovers an extraordinary painting by an unknown artist in a SoHo gallery. He buys the work; tracks down the artist, Bill Wechsler; and the two men embark on a life-long friendship.
Leo's st...more
ebook, 384 pages
Published March 1st 2004 by Henry Holt and Co. (first published 2002)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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K.D. Absolutely
Jun 30, 2011 K.D. Absolutely rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2010)
Shelves: 1001-core
What I loved. Take note of the past tense. It evokes painful memories of the past. Things that we used to cherish and treasure that are no longer there. It evokes the feeling of losing something or someone either physically like a dead father or emotionally like an ex-lover. Come to think of it, there seems to me a big blur between physical and emotional losses. A dead father may not be physically present but emotionally, he still resides in our hearts. An ex-lover may still be there physically...more
Bennet
Every story we tell about ourselves can only be told in the past tense. It winds backward from where we now stand, no longer the actors in the story but its spectators who have chosen to speak. The trail behind us is sometimes marked by stones like the ones Hansel first left behind him. Other times the path is gone, because the birds flew down and ate up all the crumbs at sunrise.

Equal parts memoir, novel of ideas, and psychological thriller, the story opens in 1975 and spans 25 years of friend...more
Shovelmonkey1
Aug 05, 2011 Shovelmonkey1 rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Paul Auster fans and 1001 book readers
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: Kingfan30
I love Paul Auster. Having discovered him through the joys of the 1001 books list, I've now read almost everything he ever wrote and just when I was getting to the end of his stuff and wondering how I could get my hands on more Paul Auster stuff (short of holding a gun to his head and forcing him to write faster), along comes the literary off-shoot of Auster that is Siri Hustvedt. What!? I hear you yell in supportive indignation for Mrs Auster and her right to be recognised as a successful and t...more
Carolee Wheeler
Feb 07, 2014 Carolee Wheeler rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: art history buffs; sensory people; reluctant pessimists
Recommended to Carolee by: 1001 Books You Should Read Before You Die
Shelves: re-read
Because I've been engaged in a book club with three others--one who likes fiction, one who likes it with reservations, and a third who views it with trepidation--I've been thinking about why I like fiction so much. Modern fiction, classic fiction, whatever--what always draws me is the way human nature is portrayed. What does it mean to be human? Is it sad, broken, lonely, joyful, complicated? Yes.

This book is, for me, the dream of fiction, in that it tells us a story, and transports us, while at...more
Mark
This is a tremendous book, and I was sorry that it had to end. I would appreciate a sequel, because Hustvedt has given so much intricacy to her characters; it would be wonderful to find out what happens to them. She mixes art, both modern and classical, into a novel with rich themes such as art's immortal quality juxtaposed with our mortal inevitability. (Her immense knowledge is not boastful like Byatt's, though.) She examines the many facets of love, unrequited love being the most painfully su...more
Gemma
I consider this book to be truly wonderful. My fellow London commuters clearly thought I was crazy as I cried over passages on a number of trains. I think the past tense in the title succinctly communicates the loss dealt with by Hustvedt.

I didn't initially like the descriptions of the art installations, and had difficulty visualising them. As I progressed through the novel I began to enjoy them more.
Kelly
This is a book, like most amazing books, which is about how exhausting and glorious and terrible it is to live. Especially if you are the one who lives.

A new favorite. I soak in her prose, whether I planned to or not.

More soon.
Jean
Jan 05, 2008 Jean rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: artists,thinkers
Recommended to Jean by: your 1001 books to read list
The writing was rich and very compelling. It's been a long time since I've thought about characters when I wasn't reading about them. The bits about art, perception and time that were thrown in as the characters developed and progressed through the plot were moving too.

The story is divided into three parts. I was drawn into the first two parts completely. The third part I resented on some level. Thinking about it now, it's the mark of a well written and executed story because I realize my resen...more
Blair
I never learn. This book had been knocking around the house for a while, but I hadn't really been interested in reading it, due to a combination of factors but primarily because a) the cover didn't interest me and b) one of the most prominent quotes on the jacket describes it as 'a love story'. As I've said before, while I always appreciate well-written relationships/romances in books, defining something purely as a love story is pretty much a surefire way to put me off. So it was for no particu...more
Caroline
It was a complete coincidence that I picked this book up at the library at the same time that I took out Paul Auster's Book of Illusions. As it turns out, the author of this book and Auster are married, and this book is dedicated to him. There are parallels in the themes they handle: loss of a child, deep and paralyzing grief, detailed descriptions of fictional pieces of artwork, vacations in Vermont. It's strange to read about those things from the perspective of two authors whose real lives ar...more
Garima
Some other time, Siri.

P.S. Ali Smith for Booker Prize.
Alan
Here is a big, ambitious novel about four talented, intelligent people -- artists and intellectuals in New York -- who first find love and friendship and then immense suffering. Bill, a talented and original artist, leaves Lucille, his emotionally stunted wife, for Violet, his passionate, vivacious model. Meanwhile their friends Leo and Erica live upstairs pursuing their own ecstatic marriage. The two couples have sons almost at the same time -- Mark and Matt. They vacation together in Vermont,...more
Nicola
The second half of What I Loved might have made an enjoyably-erudite ‘thinking man’s’ thriller set in the art world of the ‘80s and ‘90s, but the meandering first half – about affluent Manhattanites and their dull, pretentious lives – makes the book, as a whole, perhaps admirable, but hard to like.

One often comes across perfectly entertaining novels that seem to have trouble getting started. Instead of plunging their reader straight into the action, they begin with ten pages of backstory. What I...more
Caitlin Constantine
Oh my goodness, I'm not sure I can articulate just how much I loved this book. So sad, so heartbreaking, so beautiful. The novel was thick and filled with digressions on art, psychology, history, but it never felt like a drag to read, and in fact I was terribly sorry when I read the last sentence. The characters seemed so real to me that I took delight in their happiness and felt my heart ache at their sadness. At one point I actually put the book down and wept, I was so devastated. (Thank god I...more
Tom Parnell
'What I Loved' is a very good novel. Why? Because Siri Hustvedt understands people. She understands people *very damn well indeed*.

It's a book about love and friendship (and the complex interminglings of the two), about age and loss. And it manages simultaneously to be both incredibly neat and wonderfully chaotic.

There's a thing that Henry James does. I've written about it before. It's called ironic inversion — whereby an implication or expectation that's set up at the beginning of a novel is tu...more
Ms.pegasus
Jun 18, 2014 Ms.pegasus rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in great writing
Shelves: fiction
The title reads like a question. It dissolves in a way that suggests the intangibility of experience. Among the recurring iterations of that theme is the halting observation of Leo's son Matt: “'...all those different people see what they see just a little different from everybody else....[B]ecause we were sitting where we were sitting tonight, we saw a game that was a little different from those guys with the beer next to us. It was the same game, but I could've noticed something those guys did...more
Tara
Dec 15, 2008 Tara rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Tara by: listsofbests.com
All the words in this book soaked into me, got under my skin and pulled me beneath the surface. Hustvedt's characters breathe in the pages, and the two huge plot twists in the book hit me like body blows. The book centers around a group of friends and lovers who are all artists and academics, all searching for some kind of logic in human interrelations, never consciously realizing that the torturous social viruses and resulting self-loathing that they map out in their paintings and poems and boo...more
Jo
I was torn between four and five stars for this one. I found it quite hard to get into and it dragged in parts, but overall i loved it. It was a journey through the lives of the characters that spanned over a lot of years. It followed characters as they changed and their lives became something new. I thought that part was done well. Each character felt individual and fully formed. I enjoyed the writing even if it was a little pretentious in parts. It really is one of those books that makes you f...more
Stephen P
a fine evocation of the turns and passions of a creative life melded with suspense and polished prose. pretty good stuff. her best and she is a very good writer and thinker.
Natalie
What an absolutely fucking phenomenal novel: this woman is my literary crush!
Oliver Twist & Shout
La propuesta inicial es ciertamente interesante y además tiene ciertos méritos a nivel técnico como por ejemplo lo bien que se ciñe la narración a la perspectiva del narrador y no se desvía de ésta a pesar de sus múltiples oportunidades de hacerlo, pero encuentro...

... imperdonable su punto de vista, tan aburguesado y autocomplaciente (los personajes favoritos de Hustvedt son ideales, son los otros quienes traen el mal y la desgracia al mundo)

... imperdonable su aire melodramático (aquí los golp...more
Oscar
'Todo cuanto amé', de Siri Hustvedt, es una de las novelas más inteligentes que he leído últimamente. ¿Cómo calificar un libro de inteligente, por su erudición, por su estructura narrativa, por las ideas y pensamientos que desarrolla, por la trama...? Sin duda, 'Todo cuanto amé' cumple todos estos requisitos y algunos más.

¿De qué trata? Es una historia de amor, como bien indica el título, pero no sólo de amor entre personas, también de amor por el arte y la creación. Leo es un profesor de histor...more
Marie Pascale Gignac
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Chrissie
Now I have finished it. Excellent! Suberb! Who should read it? Well, you sort of have to like cerebral books. Absolutely never dull, never boring. Always something that gets you thinking. Kirkus say that Hustvedt "writes spectacular sentences that embody the American experience in brilliantly specific physical imagery." I cannot expresss this better than they do.

There is so much in this book - add adolescence, a superb description that reflects what we have all been through. There is so much to...more
Arwen
Sep 14, 2007 Arwen rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: thoughtful readers
Sometimes a book just asks to be read. My friend Efrat left this at my house for me to read, and I hadn't quite gotten around to it until I opened the New York Times special real estate Sunday magazine of all things and saw a photograph of Siri Hustvedt's garden in Brooklyn. I took it as a sign that I should read her book, and fell immediately into the story. Some of the descriptions of art are a little tedious but the portraits of people are intense and beautiful. I feel like I'm learning more...more
Kate
Apr 29, 2010 Kate rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kate by: Adjua at Mcnally Jackson
About halfway through, I noticed a quote from an Elle writer in the book's front matter: "A deeply psychological crime novel..."; I was so confused at first, I had to check to make sure the pages of quotes weren't raving about another book. But yes, it is not inaccurate to call this a crime novel--those just aren't the terms I would use. Rather, I'd call this a requiem.

Leo Hertzberg, 71 and nearly blind, tells a story of two families that spans 26 years. The story is heavily grounded in art, th...more
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
Reading this book is just like watching a Big Brother TV show. Your interest from start to finish is hooked by author Siri Hustvedt's smooth, forceful, detailed and no-frills narrative even though there is nothing spectacular about the plot. You keep on reading because the characters are well-developed and you want to find out what happens to them next.

The narrator is one of the male protagonists, Leo. You know, however, that the author is a female [author Paul Auster's wife:]. She even has a lo...more
Robin
Nearly a week after finishing this book and I'm still having a hard time deciding whether or not I enjoyed it. The first two-thirds of the novel was amazing, even hauntingly beautiful. The backstory is so artistic that I felt I was relating my own life to art while reading. The story begins to become muddled in the last third of the novel. Because Hustvedt was showing the reader a man's life? Or because she herself became distracted by the story? Less beautiful, more haunting but either way almo...more
Camille Stein
‘Pero todos vivimos aquí, pensé para mis adentros, en esas historias imaginarias que nos relatamos sobre nuestras vidas.’


‘Escribir es un modo de localizar mi hambre, y el hambre no es sino un vacío.’


Leo Hertzberg, el observador que atisba a través del agujero de su propia vida, reordena una y otra vez los preciosos objetos que atesora en un cajón, frutos y huellas de una existencia que se le escapa entre los dedos, tratando de conjugar a través del lenguaje el torrente de la memoria que los ac...more
Mary Anne
There are so many layers to this book, it is hard to know where to begin a review. At first, one is reminded of Wallace Stegner’s Angle of Repose, a story about the lives of two couples and their children, who are so close that they vacation together. But that’s not altogether an accurate casting in this case, so the reader should not get smug in knowing what will happen, or even how Hustvedt will tell the story. Life, and misfortune, intervene. And through those divergences, the story unfolds.

O...more
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Violet 1 13 Aug 05, 2014 10:41PM  
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Hustvedt was born in Northfield, Minnesota. Her father Lloyd Hustvedt was a professor of Scandinavian literature, and her mother Ester Vegan emigrated from Norway at the age of thirty. She holds a B.A. in history from St. Olaf College and a Ph.D. in English from Columbia University; her thesis on Charles Dickens was entitled Figures of Dust: A Reading of Our Mutual Friend.

Hustvedt has mainly made...more
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“I don't want the words to be naked the way they are in faxes or in the computer. I want them to be covered by an envelope that you have to rip open in order to get at. I want there to be a waiting time -a pause between the writing and the reading. I want us to be careful about what we say to each other. I want the miles between us to be real and long. This will be our law -that we write our dailiness and our suffering very, very carefully.” 42 likes
“Escribir es un modo de localizar mi hambre, y el hambre no es sino un vacío.” 10 likes
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