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What I Loved

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  16,409 ratings  ·  1,410 reviews
This is the story of two men who first become friends in 1970s New York, of the women in their lives, of their sons, born the same year, and of how relations between the two families become strained, first by tragedy, then by a monstrous duplicity which comes slowly and corrosively to the surface.
Paperback, 370 pages
Published 2003 by Sceptre (Hodder and Stoughton) (first published 2002)
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George The first third of the novel has little plot momentum, however the characters are well developed. A third of the way into the book a couple of signifi…moreThe first third of the novel has little plot momentum, however the characters are well developed. A third of the way into the book a couple of significant events occur providing plot momentum. The story focuses on the contemporary art world in New York and coping with bringing up a dishonest child through adolescence to adulthood. I enjoyed the writing style, learning about the art world and appreciating the characters for who they are.(less)

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Average rating 4.06  · 
Rating details
 ·  16,409 ratings  ·  1,410 reviews

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Feb 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have rarely read a novel of such intensity. And it touches on so much: the art world as well as art itself, relationships of many kinds, family, love, loss, psychology and the outsider, the world that is New York City, personas......much more that I'm forgetting (or avoiding for spoilers sake). But then is is titled "What I Loved" and it lives up to it's title.

In addition to being one of the most intense reading experiences, in many ways this has been one of the most unusual. At times I felt
Mar 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 29, 2014 rated it liked it
Beautifully written and a realistic insight into the difficulties of parenthood and relationships.

A story with interesting and intelligent character development. I enjoyed watching the characters grow and how the author developed and shaped the characters over a number of years.
This really is a study of relationships and how they develop between husbands and wives, family and friends over the course of a number of years and how love, and loss can change the course of friendships.

I enjoyed the r
Jan 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
It doesn’t often happen, but this book really hit an emotional chord with me; days after I put it down, it kept on haunting me. The story itself is about a mix of family situations, relationship problems, moments of hapiness and despair, but also death and psychosis, and at a certain point it even evolves into an outright horror story. That sounds a bit trite but Hustvedts characters are people of flesh and blood, with big and small yearnings, very own psychological mindsets, uncertainties and w ...more
Apr 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned-book, favorites
Superbly written…a very enjoyable novel that left me feeling introspective. The characters were so beautifully portrayed…so authentic that I hated to say goodbye. The narrator is Leo, an art historian who forms a long-lasting friendship with the painter, Bill Wechsler. These two men and their families remain friends for over 25 years. It’s a story filled with passionate love affairs as well as tragic loss, grief and heartbreak. I was so moved by this sometimes sad, sometimes sentimental, yet nev ...more
Update June, 2019 This month's BBC World Book Club (one of my favorite bookish podcasts!) featured Siri Hustvedt talking about, reading from and answering questions about What I Loved. This makes me want to reread this with fresh eyes after hearing her talk.

What I Loved? This book!

Intense and engrossing, What I Loved could also be titled What We'll Do for Love or What Love Will Do To Us for it explores the psychology of friendships, intimate and family r
K.D. Absolutely
Jan 18, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2010)
Shelves: 1001-core
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 05, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: literature
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Sep 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best-2015, favourites
Among other things, Siri Hustvedt questions in this book the concept of contemporary art. Evidently a connoisseur and an admirer, I think she wants to highlight through her imaginary world that there is a difference between real art and what people take for art nowadays: Teddy Giles, “a wanna-be artist” whose portrait is insisted upon in the second half of the book, bases all his projects on people’s reactions to violence and to matters that are only meant to shock, rather than have an artistic ...more
Carolee Wheeler
Oct 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
May 03, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: library, fiction
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
May 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Now I have finished it. Excellent! Superb! 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
Jan 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
This 2003 novel could just as well have been titled “What I Lost,” which might be truer to its elegiac tone. Narrated by Professor Leo Hertzberg and set between the 1970s and 1990s, it’s about two New York City couples – academics and artists – and the losses they suffer over the years. With themes of modern art, perspective, memory, separation and varieties of mental illness, it asks to what extent we can ever know other people or use replacements to fill the gaps left by who and what is missin ...more
Jun 13, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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.
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
Nov 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An intimate and intricate exploration of the ties that connect five adults and two children over a span of twenty-five years, told from the point of view of Leo, a professor of art history. New York City, its art scene and intelligentsia provide a vibrant context for this study of contemporary love and loss.
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.
May 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
In this moving story, a man who once wrote a book called "A Brief History of Seeing in Western Painting" but who is now older and is, ironically, losing his eyesight looks back on his life. Even in just that short summary, there are layers of seeing, losing sight and looking back. Hustvedt’s book plays with these kinds of layers and perceptions.

The story focuses on our narrator, Leo Hertzberg, his wife, Erica, their son, Matthew and the family of Bill Weschler. I’m deliberately not saying much a
Oct 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow, I loved this. There is so much depth and truth in this. I love when stories introduce me to problems, thoughts, concepts that I hadn't been familiar with before. It's not one of those books that will leave you overall satisfied and happy. It is real life with all the ups and downs that come with it. The setting in the New York art scene, the character's professions or the point in life they were at (we follow them from dating to marriage to having children to whatever comes after) wasn't so ...more
Ivana - Diary of Difference
Nov 28, 2018 marked it as to-read
Shelves: tbr-jar
Received as a Birthday Gift. *sighs*
Connie G
Leo Hertzberg seeks out Bill Wechsler after he buys one of his paintings, starting a lifelong friendship between the two men. The lives of their two families become entangled in this story about relationships, love, and loss.

Leo, an art historian, is the narrator looking back on the last twenty-five years in a book divided into three sections. The first part sets us in the New York City world of artists, academics, and intellectuals. There are beautiful, detailed descriptions of Bill's art and V
May 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Siri Hustvedt's latest novel The Blazing World was the first I read. After this, she is fast becoming one of my favourite writers, and both books are potential classics. In a sense they are companion pieces, set in the New York art world and dealing with psychological theories and disorders.

This book takes the form of a memoir written by an aging man, an art historian looking back at his life, that of his best friend, an artist, the women they loved and their children. Hustvedt's ability to inh
Jan 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
I still love The Blazing World more, though it's hard to separate the book itself from that feeling of pleasurable surprise when you discover a new author, a really good one, and think, now this person's books are waiting for me. Also I think I just know Harry in a way that I don't necessarily already know Leo. Almost like clicking with a real person.

This was nonetheless a fine read, one which leaves me with thoughts connected to one another by theme rather than any kind of real summary or revi
Dec 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
What an absolutely fucking phenomenal novel: this woman is my literary crush!
Oct 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
Perhaps I wouldn't be emotionally exhausted had I read this slowly, instead I inhaled it in two days. I'm in a daze.

I enjoyed this once I recovered from the flood of long-ago memories and emotions of working with patients like Mark while writing my thesis on hopelessness.

I know there is so much I am missing in this book, so I look forward to reading reviews now that I've finished. For now though I'll note a few very random thoughts:

- Since first person POV is my favorite, I especially enjoyed L
...Bill, who never bored me, because when I was near him I felt his weight. The man was heavy with life. So often it's lightness that we admire. Those people who appear weightless and unburdened, who hover instead of walk, attract us with their defiance of ordinary gravity. He had always been a stone, massive and hulking, charged from within by magnetic power. I was pulled toward him, more than ever before.
I'm angry to have turned the last page on this spectacular novel. I cannot express how
Roger Brunyate
May 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: art

This is a magnificent book, perhaps a great one. Maybe not in terms of its total achievement, but certainly for what it has to say about the nature of artistic exploration, and absolutely for at least two of the astounding skills that Siri Hustvedt brings to her art as a novelist.

First of all, she is one of the most sensitive painters of love, desire, friendship, and human decency now writing. At the core of her story are two families living in New York. Leo Hertzberg, the narrator, is an
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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

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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.” 91 likes
“When I spoke to her, I had the feeling that her thoughts had been nourished in wide-open spaces where talk was sparse and silence ruled.” 22 likes
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