Thursday, August 5, 2010

Review: The Man of my Dreams

The Man of my Dreams by Curtis Sittenfeld
2.5 stars

Reasons for reading: Heard good things about it; on the booksale shelf and I needed a bathtub book

Description: "Hannah Gavener is fourteen in the summer of 1991. In the magazines she reads, celebrities plan elaborate weddings; in Hannah’s own life, her parents’ marriage is crumbling. And somewhere in between these two extremes–just maybe–lie the answers to love’s most bewildering questions. But over the next decade and a half, as she moves from Philadelphia to Boston to Albuquerque, Hannah finds that the questions become more rather than less complicated: At what point can you no longer blame your adult failures on your messed-up childhood? Is settling for someone who’s not your soul mate an act of maturity or an admission of defeat? And if you move to another state for a guy who might not love you back, are you being plucky–or just pathetic?

None of the relationships in Hannah’s life are without complications. There’s her father, whose stubbornness Hannah realizes she’s unfortunately inherited; her gorgeous cousin, Fig, whose misbehavior alternately intrigues and irritates Hannah; Henry, whom Hannah first falls for in college, while he’s dating Fig; and the boyfriends who love her more or less than she deserves, who adore her or break her heart. By the time she’s in her late twenties, Hannah has finally figured out what she wants most–but she doesn’t yet know whether she’ll find the courage to go after it."

First line: "1 June 1991 - Julia roberts is getting married."

My thoughts: I dunno, I just don't get Curtis Sittenfeld's appeal. I read Prep a few years ago and my friend Vidalia loved it and I was just meh. Same for this one. I think it's because I really find her characters hard to like and likeable characters are important to me. I felt the protagonist in Prep was really whiny when in fact she was incredibly fortunate. In this book I felt like Hannah acted weird on purpose to distance herself from people and yet seemed to be clueless about why she basically had one friend and no boyfriends. She did have a difficult childhood, with an emotionally abusive father, and that's actually the best part of the book - when she stands up to him in college and when, years later, she realizes that he wasn't actually much to be scared of. But, as with Prep, it felt like a lot of angst over not much and while Hannah does grow over the course of the book (she should - it covers around 20 years!), I just didn't really care about her. I found her approach to life rather strange, too - she'd be totally passive and doing nothing (staying in her room and sleeping) or she would make huge decisions that would completely alter her life. She seemed unable to care about other people for any length of time, except for her fantasy about Henry.

I thought about quitting a few times, but I needed a tub book and I had just enough interest to see if Hannah would end up with the man of her dreams. One reviewer called the ending "hokey" and that's about it - I didn't think it suited Hannah or was particularly satisfying.

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