Karen's Reviews > The New Life of Hugo Gardner

The New Life of Hugo Gardner by Louis Begley
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it was ok

2.5 stars.

This is a complicated novel for me to rate or review. I read About Schmidt back when it came out but considering it's been almost 25 years, I don't think I remember enough of it to be sure I am accurate, however, this book felt like a similar book to me. Not in sense of plot, in that Schmidt was always very disgruntled and pretty much complained about everything. But in the sense that this novel reads like a character study of an elderly man.

Hugo Gardner is in his 80s and his wife of some 40 years decides to leave him to be with someone else. Hugo is wealthy and well regarded (as an ex-bureau chief of a magazine, etc.) and has two children with whom he doesn't have great relationships. This is the story of what happens to him post-divorce.

Here's the spoiler: nothing happens. I mean there's not much of a plot in this story. Which usually would not bother me at all. I prefer character-driven stories. I love quiet stories where nothing much happens.


But in return I need something to happen to the character. I need the character to grow in some way. To learn something about themselves. To acknowledge or ponder some truths. Something that makes me feel like reading the story was worthwhile because we both learned something from it.

Alas, I didn't feel that way in this story. There were parts that made me laugh (especially the part where he thanks Gore for inventing the internet.) There were parts that made me cringe. There was so much where I couldn't tell if the author was trying to be clever or whatever and it just didn't really land with me. The character seemed both full of himself and I found myself pitying him at parts.

I didn't hate my time with this story. I think Begley is a good writer and I found the book readable and enjoyable in parts. I mostly felt like I wasn't sure what the point of this whole story was. What did he learn from the divorce? How did he grow from the experience? It all just felt empty to me. I understand the author was maybe trying to make a point with this character but it just didn't work for me.

with gratitude to edelweiss and Doubleday Books for an early copy in exchange for an honest review.
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Reading Progress

December 30, 2019 – Shelved
December 30, 2019 – Shelved as: to-read
February 2, 2020 – Started Reading
February 2, 2020 – Finished Reading

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