Written in the first person and at times addressing the reader directly, ‘The Summer Without Men’ introduces us to Mia whose husband Boris is taking a pause in their marriage to have a fling with a co-scientist after 30 years of marriage and no warning that he had been feeling unfulfilled.
We’re introduced to the effect it has on Mia who has a brief stay in hospital and then takes time out to recover in the comfort of her home town getting to know her mother’s aged friend Abigail while teaching poetry to a class of young girls.
Through the story, Mia reflects on her relationship with Boris and their life, which includes the intimacy between a male and female (although not explicit). Mia remembers the role her own mother played during her childhood and makes comparisons to how she is now. Her neighbour Lola becomes a part of her life and she becomes involved in resolving a crises of one of the girls in her poetry class. Predominantly surrounded by females, she corresponds via email with Nobody who is prossibly a male inmate she met during her hospital stay.
This is a story of introspection and remembrance mixed with the thread of Mia and how she recovers from her traumatic experience. Having spent so many years with Boris and identifying herself through that relationship she takes back the part of herself that is ‘I am’.
My enjoyment from reading comes from the author engaging my emotions, absorbing me in the story and taking me away from my every day life into another world when anything is possible and sometimes introduces me to something new or even nudges me into pondering. I have to be honest and say that I didn’t enjoy this novel because I felt none of these things. It didn’t hold my attention as it meandered along and didn’t engage my emotions even though I love philosophy and psychology. I also love poetry of all descriptions. Maybe it was because it was quite a short novel and there wasn't enough time to get to know any of the characters in depth.
This is my opinion and you should read other readers reviews, taking into account what they say, before making your choice. For example The Telegraph has this review by Philip Womack http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/bookreviews/8418791/The-Summer-Without-Men-by-Siri-Hustvedt-review.html.
I would like to thank Waterstones for providing me with a copy to review.