I enjoy reading books about the inner workings of the art world. It must be the deep seated envy that wishes I were an artist. Much to my disappointment, there is not an artistic bone in my body. I live vicariously through artistic friends (of which I have many including my husband) and I savour literature about art and the souls that produce the drawings, paintings, and sculptures that have the power to take my breath away and feel wholly inadequate in the space of 1/2 second.
What I Loved is a VERY cerebral but highly accessible novel. It is the story of love, grief, friendship, parenthood and our perception of ourselves and others in our various roles.
Set in Manhattan it is a story of an artist and an art history professor, their lives and losses, their children and aging. There are some disturbing events which will cause great anguish and fear in every mother and father who reads this novel.
Often I complain about the lack of character development in novels. The characters in this story are incredibly complex and Hustvedt uses thrilling and evocative language to develop the multiple dimensions of their personalities so much that they feel real. I so desperately want to meet Violet and Bill and Leo. They are not perfect people and I think they would make fascinating dinner guests. I'm certain they exist.
The ending of the novel is sad and yet not so sad. Not unlike many of our lives.
If you have harbour an intense interest in art and aren't afraid of exploring the possibilities of children growing into monsters (some do), then I highly recommend this book. If art bores you and/or you would rather avoid thinking about the monster scenario, give this a miss.