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The King in the Tree: Three Novellas

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  300 Ratings  ·  28 Reviews
From the author of "Edwin Mullhouse" and the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Martin Dressier" come three dazzling novellas about the many shapes of love.
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published February 18th 2003 by Knopf
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Vit Babenco
Aug 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The King in the Tree is three novellas of love and unfaithfulness that have powerful aura of fairytales or, to be more precise, of postmodernistic fables.
“When I first met Robert, when I was twenty-four and he was thirty, he used to come into the bookstore where I was working. He wore jeans and work boots and flannel shirts. He looked like a skinny lumberjack. I thought he was my age – a student, maybe. Even then he was an interesting man. A teacher who hated teachers, an intellectual who made f
Christina Wilder
Dec 01, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: short-stories
3.5 stars.

As this book is essentially three novellas, I'll review them as such.

The first story, "Revenge", truly shines. The main character, who has been wronged in the past, enacts a chilling vengeance. I don't even want to go into it using spoiler tags as I really think you should read this story. It's mesmerizing.

The second, "An Adventure of Don Juan", does not live up to the first story, but it certainly is memorable. What I enjoyed about this story was that it didn't attempt to portray Don
Roger Brunyate
May 08, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: stories, music
Love at an Impasse

Three novellas, at roughly 50, 80, and 100 pages each. All have to do with adultery. All three explore a curious state of stasis, where passion is undiminished, but no further move seems possible, a kind of amatory checkmate. The two longer stories, in addition, revisit operatic characters—from Mozart's Don Giovanni and Wagner's Tristan and Isolde—or rather the original myths on which those operas were based. While the first story is good, the other two are the real reason for
James Murphy
Nov 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
This is another book I've had a long time, at least 5 years. Millhauser has written 3 novellas about love and relationships. In 2 of them he pushes aside the veil obscuring legend or myth to reveal characters made round and human. It's here that we meet Don Juan in hell, more of a wounded Fisher King than aggressive seducer. "The King in the Tree" tells the foreground of the King Mark, Tristan and Ysolt legend, before the lovers flee the kingdom. The opening story is a pained monologue of a woma ...more
Sofi A
Jun 04, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Finished the first story. Revenge. Incredible! Did not expect that. I give it 5 stars. Finished An adventure of Don Juan, the ending.. i saw it coming. But the story was entretaining and i liked the charecters. 3.5 stars. Finishedthe last story. The king in the tree. A story about Tristan and Ysolt from the point of view of Thomas, the king's advisor and King Marks perspective. Pretty good but full of people knowing that something is wrong and doing nothing about it which irritates me. 4 stars. ...more
Billie Pritchett
Jun 22, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
Steven Millhauser's King in the Tree is a collection of three novellas: Revenge, An Adventure of Don Juan, and the eponymous King in the Tree. Only the latter story felt like it deserved to be of novella length; the other two stories could have been edited down to short story-length to greater effect.

I don't know exactly what to say regarding the stories in the collection. I am a fan of Millhauser's short fiction, having loved almost everything I've read by him. Two stories that come to mind are
Katie M.
Oct 21, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2008
Ack, this came SO CLOSE to being a really great book, and just didn't quite make it. It's three novellas, the first of which is so jarringly different in tone and subject matter (though they're all ostensibly about deception - which is true, but that's still not enough to smooth over the gaps) that it really detracts from the work as a whole. The second story is probably the most solid of the three; the third is beautiful but unfortunately consists of so much betray-forgive-betray-forgive that p ...more
May 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
Three tales of love as told by three characters standing in its shadows: a betrayed wife, a thwarted Don Juan, and a tormented king. I'm becoming a Millhauser fan, I think. His work is unique in that any given story either comes from or arrives at an undeniable truth in the dark. The stories with their keenly imagined details and impeccably wrought narratives startle and stun.
Dora Okeyo
I liked: the first novella, really got my attention with a tour of the house and all.
Would I recommend it: Yes, it has quite a lot to tell on disappointments, betrayals and memory- quite a read if you have time like a weekend or so.
The good side of it: 3 Novellas in one. I love novellas.
Award: 3 stars, one for each novella for sharing a character's world in their own way.
Jun 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
Three novellas on the theme of the tragic love triangle. The first, "Revenge," is Millhauser at his most emotionally effective. Despite the artifice in Millhauser's writing, he still manages to lure the reader into connecting with his lovesick characters. I'd compare it to how Wes Anderson's films have sympathetic characters despite the dollhouse-like settings.
Jun 23, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: summer-2011
The first novella, Revenge, was told in an interesting style and had a compelling storyline. The second, about a Don Juan character, was good but I didn't feel its power until the very end. The third was poetic and tragic, but it felt like reading about my best friend's tribulations with her on-and-off boyfriend.
Apr 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
This collection of 3 novellas was recommended by a friend and I loved every page of it. Exceptional writing and story-telling, especially his interpretations of Don Juan and Tristan and Isolde. Seriously, read the title story and you'll forget that the James Franco movie ever happened!
Feb 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novel, favorites
Just upgraded my rating because I can't stop thinking about this book. It has three stories each of which are memorable. I don't know what to say about it, other than I haven't started another book so as not to erase the memory of this one.
Aug 07, 2008 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: people who like cheap romance novels
I'm a big Millhauser fan, but this book is severely disappointing. It is drippy and sentimental and seems like a cheap imitation of his usually fantastic writing. Its mediocrity actually made me angry. What happened, Steve?
Jun 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
Steven Millhauser is a genius. I quote a lit professor of mine when I say, ever word does work in Millhauser's writing. Nothing is wasted. I got a little bogged down in the middle novella about Don Juan, but the other two completely engaged me. Loved it.
Aug 13, 2015 rated it liked it
I imagine more people are familiar with the Edward Norton movie "The Illusionist" than the novella it was based on (not in this collection). But for those rare souls still willing to give the novella form a try, here is a master.
Margaret Lewis
I registered a book at!
Adam Rodenberger
While certainly not his most engaging work (personally), Millhauser's writing and style are still top-notch.
Jan 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I love Steven Millhauser's ability with prose. He writes novels like a poet; if Keats wrote novels, I imagine they would be lie this wonderful collection of stories.
3 superb novellas. mostly about love betrayal and revenge
Nov 07, 2008 rated it did not like it
So far nothing else I've read of his has held a candle to the first 90% of his amazing novel _Martin Dressler_.
Oct 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
The title story was 1st printed in the New Yorker magazine. Another great collection of short stories.
Jul 03, 2009 rated it liked it
This left an overall impression of languid passivity.
May 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Three short stories...go read them right now!
Oct 03, 2013 rated it it was ok
Great writing but overall the stories were too long-winded and just not interesting enough to hold my attention.
Doug Mclean
rated it really liked it
Nov 02, 2014
Gina Jones
rated it it was amazing
Oct 02, 2014
rated it it was amazing
Jul 17, 2008
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Sep 21, 2011
rated it it was amazing
Dec 27, 2016
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