The Sorrows of an American
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The Sorrows of an American

3.49 of 5 stars 3.49  ·  rating details  ·  2,333 ratings  ·  264 reviews

When Erik Davidsen and his sister, Inga, find a disturbing note among their late father's papers, they believe he may be implicated in a mysterious death. The Sorrows of an American tells the story of the Davidsen family as brother and sister unbandage its wounds in the year following their father’s funeral. Erik is a psychiatrist dangerously vulnerable to his patients; In

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Hardcover, 320 pages
Published April 1st 2008 by Holt, Henry & Company, Inc. (first published January 1st 2008)
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Ceci
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 le...more
Natalie
This is more a 3.5 for me, but this is my fourth Hustvedt in a row and two of them were particularly brilliant.

There 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 lif...more
Oscar
El nombre de Siri Hustvedt siempre va acompañado de la coletilla "mujer de Paul Auster", algo que me molesta y de lo que desconfiaba. Tras leer 'Elegía para un americano', lo primero que leo de esta escritora, he descubierto que Siri es una autora con personalidad propia y tiene derecho a ser reconocida por quien es y por lo que escribe, y no por con quien está casada.

Este libro habla de la memoria y de los recuerdos, de los secretos del pasado y de la melancolía del presente. Dos hermanos, Inga...more
i. merey
This is a tall, white, intelligent, pleasant, and faintly dull novel.

Erik 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 turns.
He'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-lover/muse who is threatening to sell their old love letters. And bot...more
Tony Johnston
In a word, awful.

In a few more words...

Secrets, 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 could...more
Joan Winnek
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.
Gerund
Even literature lovers might be hard-pressed to recognise the name Siri Hustvedt at first glance. But append the title "wife of Paul Auster", and its' likely that lightbulbs will go off.

This is unfortunate for the American writer, whose novels -- New York-based psychological and philosophical dramas -- are often fiercely praised by critics.

The central theme of her latest novel, Sorrows Of An American, is captured in the books opening sentence: "My sister called it the 'year of secrets,' but when...more
Djlown
“My sister called it “the year of secrets”, but when I look back on it now, I’ve come to understand that it was a time not of what was there, but of what wasn’t”. The lyrical first sentence perfectly sets the tone of Siri Hustvedt’s book. The death of a father and an unexplained letter found in his papers provide the background for a sustained exploration of identity and the search for an answer to that perennial question, how much do we ever really know someone. To what extent does information...more
Nina
I thought this book was beautifully written, but I didn’t really like it that much. The big mystery about the letter they found in their father’s memoirs after his death just didn’t work – it got very convoluted and I lost interest by the end of it. The other story interweaved with this one about the psychiatrist’s relationship with the mother and daughter living in the apartment in his house was very good – I wish the novel was stripped down to just this subplot. But overall, between the father...more
Kathryn
Loved the first 150 pages of this, maybe because it's half in Minnesota (during our grandparent's/great-grandparent's time). The Brooklyn half gets too bogged down with names, obsessions, plot lines that aren't interesting. Then, at the very end she goes for a Virginia Woolf meshed (literal string-like-web) thing that frankly, has been done better many, many times and I don't buy.
Anita
My granny lent me this book, because I was raiding her shelves and was intrigued about the title. So, before reading it I did a little search on Google and found out that Siri Hustvedt is married to Paul Auster. I guess that some people say that she’s published only because she is Paul Auster’s wife, as it has happened with other writers before.

This is not the case for Hustvedt. I believe she got published on her own merits.
I enjoyed Sorrows of an American a lot! It’s the kind of book that hooks...more
Lanew-yorkaise
From http://lanew-yorkaise.com/

“Dream economies are frugal. The smoking sky on September eleventh, the television images from Iraq, the bombs that burst on the beach where my father had dug himself a trench in February 1945 burned in unison on the familiar ground of rural Minnesota. Three detonations. Three men of three generations together in a house that was going to pieces, a house I had inherited, a house that shuddered and shook like my sobbing niece and my own besieged body, inner catacly...more
Ron Charles
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 Kierkegaard.

But I think I'm in love.

Despite everything about The Sorrows of an American that makes it sound repellent, this is one of the most profound...more
Vivek Tejuja
There is a lot of chat in Hustvedt’s new novel. Erik is a psychotherapist with some difficult clients, he’s just divorced, and is falling for the young single mum, Miranda, in the flat below.

His sister, Inga, was married to a famous writer, Max, who has recently died, and they chat about what it’s like to be in love with a writer and how you kind of fall in love with them through their writing.

And then there is Miranda’s ex, who is stalking her but using the surreptitious photos he takes in an a...more
Monica
I found out Siri Hustvedt is married to Paul Auster when I was already about halfway into the book, and was excited, but also a little surprised, because her writing is different from his. Auster's books are more abstract, and I always feel like I am floating when I read his books.

The Sorrows of an American was more solidly grounded, had a less intricate plot, and had more understandable characters. The book follows the psychiatrist Erik Davidsen in the year after his father dies. Seeking to so...more
Lars Guthrie
'I think we all have ghosts inside us, and it’s better when they speak than when they don’t.' The words of Hustvedt's analyst narrator keep echoing in my brain after reading this powerful and unusual novel.

Perhaps novels are ghosts of a kind: words unattached to flesh that speak to us as vividly as life. Today, reading about the upcoming publication of Carl Jung's 'Red Book,' I thought of another observation made by Erik Davidsen: '…[T:]he distance needed for humor is always missing from dreams...more
Bjorn
Now the ravens nest in the rotted roof of Chenoweth's old place
And no one's asking Cal about that scar upon his face
'Cause there's nothin' strange about an axe with bloodstains in the barn,
There's always some killin' you got to do around the farm
Murder in the red barn
Murder in the red barn
- Tom Waits


That song keeps playing in my head throughout The Sorrows Of An American - even though it's long unclear whether there's a murder in it at all. Apart from that one September, 2001 mass-murder that tu...more
Carl Brush
At one point in Siki Hustveldt’s The Sorrows Of American, the narrator dives into his father’s grave. The family has gathered to inter his father’s ashes and not prepared any device to lower the urn, so he grasps the container holding the ashes and inserts himself head first, others holding his heels for safety, into the earth, past the roots until he is able to at last drop the box the last inch or so to its final resting place. It’s a moving and sensuous scene, a moment lived in the moment wi...more
Blair
After reading the wonderful What I Loved, I was keen for another fix of Siri Hustvedt's beautiful writing and characterisation. The Sorrows of an American revolves around psychiatrist Erik, who narrates the story, and his sister Inga (who was briefly mentioned in What I Loved - the latter's narrator, Leo, also makes a cameo appearance here). It opens with Erik and Inga finding a mysterious letter amongst their father's papers after his death, and initially seems to be about their search to disco...more
Birge
nach what I loved ist das neue buch leider eine herbe enttäuschung.

was dort in allen bereichen wunderbar geklappt hat, funktioniert hier leider gar nicht: zum einen kann ich mich so gar nicht in ihr aktuelles alter ego einfinden. ein geschiedener, mittfuffziger shrink. das habe ich ihr nicht abgenommmen. ich bin immer wieder erschrocken, wenn explizit darauf bezug genommen wurde ("this morning I woke up with an erection") und ich ungalant daran erinnert wurde, dass das Ich ein mann ist....

die ch...more
Krista
Erik Davidsen returns to his Minnesota hometown to sort through his recently deceased father Lars's papers. Erik's writer sister, Inga, soon discovers a letter from someone named Lisa that hints at a death that their father was involved in. Over the course of the book, the siblings track down people who might be able to provide information on the letter writer's identity. The two also contend with other looming ghosts. Erik immerses himself in the text of his father's diary as he develops an inf...more
Joanna
This book gives a wonderful peek into the mind of a psychoanalyst working with his patients. These descriptions were by far the best part of the book - I'm tempted to give four stars just for that. The primary storyline, however, concerned the psychoanalyst's family and a tracing of a story from his recently deceased father. While the use of the author's father's journals was a lovely way for the author to collaborate with her father, and while the journals themselves were interesting, no truly...more
Anna
I don't usually dislike books as much as I dislike this one.

Profoundly boring. Full of false profundity. Premise of the story is so weak I want to put the word in quotes to highlight just how weak the premise is. Characters not very interesting (given to caricature or melodrama) and given to delivering long speeches. Narrator is nominally male but the voice is manifestly female. I'd love to read a story about Norwegian immigrants in this country, but this is not that book. These NYC types are c...more
Better BookAddict
I'm not sure if this book is the best introduction to the author for me. I found it slow going, maybe too much psychiatric jargon and as another reviewer noted "anti-climatic narrative". It is a novel of many stories and apart from the aforementioned jargon, well written. However, it was a slow read and I did find myself wanting more from the ending. I rate this only a 3★ novel, but I will pursue the author's best selling What I Loved; hopefully I will find in that, the excellence that readers a...more
Alexis
I was impressed by Hustvedt's ability to narrate as a man. The overlapping between the novel's fictional content and non-fictional content (which was not entirely revealed until the postscript) greatly held my interest as I am deeply fascinated by how "writ[ing] what you know" takes shape for each author.

I had been bothered that the short bio of Hustvedt mentions that her husband in Paul Auster but in reading the novel I see how that is both necessary and painful- inextricable for her if we are...more
Inaniel
I like her written voice, forceful but not loud.
Jo
I found this to be quite pretentious and boring. The grandfathers story was very dry and I couldn't bring myself to care about those sections at all. So when the present day section came around I was pleased, until I remembered they weren't a hell of a lot more interesting. I think Siri is a very talented writer and I usually love her work, but this one fell short for me. I think for me, this lacked a storyline. I do find it interesting that she sometimes writes from a male perspective though.
Jean
How do these books get such laudatory reviews? This one had at least 4 story lines going at the same time...psychiatrist's divorce, "hot" divorcee downstairs in his house, her stalker, his Dad's WWII experiences, the mysterious letter of his Father's youth, the widowed sister and the struggling teenaged niece...throw in a few deranged psychiatric patients for good measure! AND none of them were going anywhere by 100 pages. Don't bother is my advice. Like it? Not so much!
Aisling
An American brother and sister descendants of Norwegian immigrants are sorting the affairs of their recently deceased father when they come across an ambiguous note signed by an unknown woman called Lisa. Brother and sister set out to locate the elusive Lisa & from there the story moves into the various and convoluted lives of both. Brother, Eric is a psychiatrist, divorced and the story is told largely from his point of view with various diversions into the stories of some of his patients....more
Ali
I feel like I should note upfront that I went into this with sky-high expectations - What I Loved was so spectacular and haunting that I was really excited to read more of Siri Hustvedt's writing. So given that I was starting on that footing, I do find it hard to get a good sense of how much I might have enjoyed this if I'd read it entirely on its own terms.

That said, I was disappointed by this. I think my main criticism was how unsubtle it felt. My eyes glazed over every time the characters lau...more
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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've always thought of wholeness and integration as necessary myths. We're gragmented beings who cement ourselves together, but there are always cracks. Living with the cracks is part of being, well, reasonably healthy.” 13 likes
“I've always thought of wholeness and integration as necessary myths. We're fragmented beings who cement ourselves together, but there are always cracks. Living with the cracks is part of being, well, reasonably healthy” 12 likes
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