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The Sorrows of an American

3.51  ·  Rating details ·  3,396 Ratings  ·  346 Reviews
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 another

When Erik Davidsen and his 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. The Sorrows of an American tells the stor
Hardcover, 306 pages
Published April 1st 2008 by Henry Holt and Co. (first published January 1st 2008)
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Oct 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modern-lit, read-2016
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 quotes, 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
Oct 01, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-reads
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-9/11 books. Both make at least veiled references to The Wizard of Oz. It is also true that Hustvedt writes intelligently and beautifully, as does Powers.

There are a lot of characte
Tony Johnston
Dec 14, 2010 rated it did not like it
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
Dec 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Joan Winnek
Dec 31, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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.
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
I. Merey
Dec 07, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012
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
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
Mar 12, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Apr 22, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 e ...more
May 17, 2010 rated it liked it
“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
Mar 22, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
p. 216: "A solidão começara, gradualmente, a alterar-me, a transformar-me num homem que eu não esperava, uma pessoa bem mais estranha do que alguma vez imaginei, um homem que rondava o quarto de uma mulher, respirando sofregamente, com os dedos a milímetros, embora sem os tocar, dos puxadores das suas gavetas. Já muitas vezes pensei que ninguém é como se imagina, que todos normalizamos a terrível estranheza da vida íntima com várias ficções convenientes. Eu não queria iludir-me mas compreendi qu ...more
May 26, 2009 rated it it was ok
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.
Dec 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
Apr 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Literature lovers
Shelves: recent-faves
Great book! I won't write any spoilers, but I will say that Hustvedts characters live on after I read her books, in my head. What a writer!
Jul 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing

“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
Apr 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: usa
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
Aug 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Non voltarti
Continua a guardare la ferita
È da lì che la luce entra in te.

Questo è l'esergo del romanzo: una citazione di Rumi, poeta persiano del XIII secolo.
Leonard Cohen, morto nel periodo della mia lettura, ha usato nel brano “Anthem” (1992) un'espressione molto simile: “C'è una crepa in ogni cosa, è da lì che entra la luce”. Coincidenza, forse. Oppure Cohen conosceva Rumi e i suoi versi, che meritavano di essere rivisitati...
Il romanzo è molto buono, la scrittura di Siri Hustvedt sempre avvi
Ron Charles
Dec 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 29, 2017 rated it it was ok
In all honesty, I don't really know what to think about the book. I didn't just feel connected with it at all and that is why the whole reading experience was a struggle. Siri Hustvedt is skilled creating psychological atmosphere that makes you feel unsettled and thrilled but all in all, I disliked the language, the pacing of the book and didn't really feel anything towards any of the characters. I am a bit disappointed and underwhelmed because I wanted to like Hustvedt's writing style so much. ...more
Jul 29, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: n-usa, e3
"É um milagre quando as paixões de duas pessoas se encontram. É bem mais frequente irem em direcções inesperadas e nunca mais se reencontrarem."
Jun 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Carl R.
May 16, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Mar 31, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
Lars Guthrie
Sep 19, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
'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
Vivek Tejuja
Dec 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 28, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: here, 2014

As Inga once pointed out to me, since Plato, Western philosophy and culture have had an ocular bias: vision is our dominant sense. We read each other through our eyes, and anatomically they are an extension of our brains. When we catch someone's eye, we look into a mind. A person without eyes is disturbing for the simple reason that eyes are the door to the self.

This is a book about seeing and being seen, in all the possible ways, and a lot of it is rather abstract; the kind of book that will
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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 about Siri Hustvedt...

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“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” 17 likes
“That is the strangeness of language: it crosses the boundaries of the body, is at once inside and outside, and it sometimes happens that we don't notice the threshold has been crossed.” 16 likes
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