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photographer, bookworm in French and English, mad about independent movies.

A refreshing summer read

The Summer Without Men - Siri Hustvedt

For me it was not a summer without men but rather with men only, 4 males under the same roof. Reading books was my way to escape a climate too heavily loaded with testosterone. This was my first read by Siri Hustvedt and I quite enjoyed it, it was light and I could easily warm up to Mia the main character. A women in her 50s going away for the summer after a psychotic episode of delirium, having to go through the abandonned middle age, wife syndrome and her husband Boris falling for a younger model. Mia a literature teacher is not falling for the victim attitude, she chooses to escape from Boris and the pause ( how she calls the other woman), near a place close to her mother's retirement home where she meets some lovely very old ladies. She organises a poetry workshop for seven young ladies at the other end of the spectrum of life just entering their adolescence and not devoid of cruelty, begins a friendship with Lola her neighbour who spends her time between two young kids, a husband on the run and her jewellery designs. Mia nagivates between all the protagonists, exclusively female, the men are not absent from the story but we rarely hear them speak and they do not take centre stage. The story is all about women at a different stage of their life, Mia gets close to Lola, Abigail and Alice she plays a catharsis for all three of them, helps them unfold some deep rooted issues, and move towards the next step in their life, this indeed helps her as well through the next stage. Siri's wording and style is ciseled and refined, with good rythm. The alternation between the 3 stories with Mia as centerfold keeps the reader's attention abreast. Mia is quite an attaching character with her own issues but during that summer time she devotes her time to others, her generosity is a way to help her going through her hardship withouht falling pray to desperation and raising as a stronger character in the process.